In the small town of Cobden south of Carbondale, Mary Shepard's life changed forever on Sept. 28, 2009.
Ms. Shepard, then 71, suffered a brutal beating at the hands of a "six-foot-three-inch, 245-pound man with a violent past and criminal record," according to the suit. She was left for dead at a church where she was working as a treasurer. Her 84-year-old coworkeralso was attacked and beaten, according to the suit.
She and the Illinois State Rifle Association are suingIllinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Gov. Pat Quinn, Union County State's Attorney Tyler Edmonds, and Union County Sheriff David Livesay. The suit,filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, states she was denied the right to defend herself due to Illinois laws that prohibit citizens from carrying a handgun for self-defense.
The 2009 attack left Ms. Shepard with skull fractures, fractures to both cheeks, brain swelling, shattered teeth, a concussion, loss of hearing, torn rotator cuffs in her shoulders, an injured clavicle and lasting injuries to her face, skull and body. Injuries to vertebrae in her neck required surgical implants,and her upper arm has needed extensive reconstructive surgery, according to the lawsuit.
Ms. Shepard is a handgun owner. The church treasurer hasearned certifications in handgun safety and self-defense and holds permits that let her carry a handgun in Florida and Pennsylvania.
At home, however, she can't. Illinois is one of two states, the other being Wisconsin, with no form of concealed carry law. That prohibition, her lawsuit claims, violates her2nd and 14th Amendment rights.
"I think this case highlights the fact that our women and our elderly in this state have no effective means of self defense," saidValinda Rowe of Illinois Carry, a pro-conceal carry group. "Mary is a quiet little woman. She's all of five foot tall, if that. She has no means to protect herself.
"She still is undergoing surgeries and physical therapies. This guy was a parolee," Ms. Rowe said."I think it's a perfect example of the victims that are created by Illinois' complete ban on firearms."
Earlier this month, Ms. Rowetestified in Springfield on Ms. Shephard's behalf, advocating passage of Illinois House Bill 148 that would give Illinois' registered gun owners the right to carry a firearm, provided they meet required training and background checks.
State Reps. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, and Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, cosponsored the bill, which fellshort of the 71 votes needed May 5 to move forward. Rep. Morthland said the bill since has been pulled and consideration postponed. Passage, he added, does not look promising.Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would veto any concealed carry law.
Ms. Shephard's suit didn't surprise Henry County State's Attorney Terry Patton, who supports a concealed carry law in Illinois.
"The criminals are going to have guns no matter what the law is," he said. "They don't follow the laws in the first place.
"I understand concerns about more guns in the streets," Mr. Patton said. "(But)I've not heard anyone opposed to concealed carry pointing to any statistics or any proof from other states that they've turned into the wild, wild west."
Ms. Shepard's suit seels the cost of the litigation and "any other and further relief that the Court deems just and appropriate."Robin Ziegler, press secretary for Attorney General Madigan, said their office is reviewing the suit.
The Chicago attorneys representing Ms. Shepard, William Howard and Jeffery Cross, did not return a call for comment.