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Thursday, May 29, 2014 12:01 am

Firing back

State sued over permit denials

PHOTO BY RON JENKINS/MCT

 

Three people denied permits to carry concealed firearms have sued the state, saying that the state has violated their rights by rejecting applications to carry concealed weapons.

The plaintiffs each received a form letter from Illinois State Police stating that their application was rejected based on concerns from law enforcement that they pose a danger to themselves or others. The letters don’t state what agency raised concerns, nor do the letters contain any specifics on the nature of the concern. Rather, unsuccessful applicants are told that the licensing review board, which receives information on applicants from state police and decides whether permits should be granted, has decided by a preponderance of evidence that the applicant poses a danger to public safety or themselves or others.

The lawsuit filed April 23 in Sangamon County Circuit Court states that the plaintiffs are law-abiding citizens. According to applications submitted to state police, none of the plaintiffs are convicted felons, nor have they been convicted of domestic battery, nor do they have histories of mental illness or drug abuse. One, Deanna Knoll, is a Bloomington pediatrician.

Illinois Carry, a gun-rights group, is also a plaintiff. David Thompson, a Washington, D.C., attorney who is representing the plaintiffs, says the Illinois State Rifle Association is also involved.

The law allows applicants who are denied permits to appeal the board’s decision in court, but that’s a hollow process, according to the lawsuit and Thompson, because any judicial appeal would be limited to the administrative record, and the board now is not compiling records that are available to denied applicants.

“Citizens of Illinois are being stripped of their right to carry without any knowledge as to why or any opportunity to present evidence,” Thompson said in an interview. “The problem is, you go to court and you’re not allowed to present any evidence. … Even if they did tell you (why you were denied), or you could guess, you have no opportunity to offer evidence in that court proceeding.”

A similar lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Chicago alleging that unsuccessful applicants are being denied their due process rights under federal law. The local lawsuit is an attempt to cover the same due-process issues under state law, Thompson said.

At a minimum, Thompson said, the state should tell unsuccessful applicants why they were denied permits with some specificity. Simply saying that an unnamed agency objected for an unknown reason isn’t good enough, he said.

“That’s a big part of this,” Thompson said. “You haven’t been told why, you just don’t know.”

It is possible, Thompson said, that a law-abiding person could be denied a license due to mistaken identity. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs say that applicants who are denied licenses without knowing the reason can’t assess their chances of prevailing in court, which involves substantial legal costs.

The state has issued nearly 50,000 licenses to carry concealed firearms since the state began processing permits in February, according to Monique Bond, spokeswoman for Illinois State Police. Nearly 600 applications have been rejected, she said.

Last year, Illinois became the 50th state to enact legislation allowing citizens to carry concealed firearms. Lawmakers acted under pressure from the courts, which ruled that a ban on carrying concealed firearms violated the Second Amendment’s prohibition on the right of citizens to keep and bear arms.

The lawsuit has been assigned to Sangamon County Associate Judge Rudolph Braud. Thompson said that he’s hoping for a hearing in June or July.

“I’m quite confident that the courts will put this on a fast track,” Thompson said.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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