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Brown: Let’s agree on a law that tightly regulates who will be permitted to carry a gun.

LisMadigan. File  I John H. White~Sun-Times

Lisa Madigan. File I John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 21, 2013 4:02PM



Thomas Vanden Berk, chairman of Brady PAC-Illinois, is by his own description one of this state’s “old-time gun control folks.”

He came by that status the hard way beginning when his son was killed 20 years ago in the crossfire of a gang shootout. Ever since, he has been at the forefront of the push for sensible gun laws in Illinois, currently overseeing the state political arm of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

In short, nobody can seriously question Vanden Berk’s commitment to gun control.

And that’s why I think it’s important to point out that Vanden Berk isn’t among those jumping on the bandwagon to urge Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to appeal last week’s federal court ruling that struck down the state’s ban on carrying concealed weapons.

Tempting as it is for gun foes to fight back on any and all fronts in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, Vanden Berk is among those who believe it would be better to use this opportunity to persuade state lawmakers to approve a tightly restrictive concealed carry law, accompanied by other gun control restrictions, than to take a chance on what a hostile U.S. Supreme Court might have to say.

His is far from a universal opinion in the gun control community, I would hasten to add. Others would rather push back, no matter how futile in the current judicial climate, to try to preserve Illinois’ status as the only state that doesn’t allow its citizens to carry around a loaded gun in public — especially in the aftermath of Newtown.

I think you saw some of that frustration in Police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s unsolicited advice this week to Madigan to appeal the unfavorable concealed carry ruling from the Seventh Circuit of Appeals.

For the Attorney General’s office, though, this is a complex decision in which Madigan’s lawyers must weigh the chances of prevailing in court against the danger of eliciting an even more onerous ruling on appeal.

Madigan has not tipped her hand, and I could see her going in any of several directions after her staff completes a legal analysis of the Seventh Circuit’s ruling.

One option I can’t see her taking is going back to the three-judge panel led by Judge Richard A. Posner, who wrote last week’s decision, for a rehearing. That would be fruitless.

Madigan could instead ask all 10 judges of the Seventh Circuit to hear the case en banc (before the entire bench), but that would be a longshot, too, as they agree to take a case even more rarely than does the U.S. Supreme Court.

The upside isn’t entirely clear, either. It seems unlikely the Seventh Circuit would outright overturn the highly respected Posner, and even in the event the attorney general would prevail, that would almost certainly result in the case reaching the Supreme Court on an appeal by the other side.

Or Madigan could just go ahead and ask the Supreme Court to take the case.

The reason some gun control advocates aren’t too keen on going to the high court with the Illinois law is that they can’t be sure they wouldn’t come away with a harsh ruling that would hurt restrictive concealed carry laws on the books in other states.

“It’s likely we lose,” Vanden Berk said.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking on the 180-day time limit that Posner imposed on Illinois to enact its own concealed carry law. It’s that time limit that gun rights advocates see as their trump card, because in theory, if no law is on the books by that time, Illinois residents would have an unfettered right to carry their firearms in public.

The time limit could be halted if the Seventh Circuit or Supreme Court took the case, which some might see as an advantage. There’s also a possibility the full Seventh Circuit would at least tone down some of Posner’s rhetoric, making the adverse decision a little more palatable.

I would think it would be hard for anybody on the gun control side of the equation to criticize Madigan for whatever decision she makes here. It’s not as if there are a lot of great options.

While some are saying Madigan’s decision could impact her possible run for governor in 2014, particularly with pro-gun Downstate voters, I don’t see that, either. Her strong gun control record is pretty clear.

It’s against this backdrop that Brady PAC’s Vanden Berk says why not let the decision stand — and get down to the business of agreeing on a law that tightly regulates who will be permitted to carry a gun.



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