Crime victim sues Illinois over concealed carry prohibition

Originally Posted Online: May 18, 2011, 6:40 pm
Last Updated: May 18, 2011, 9:52 pm
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By Stephen Elliott,

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.


Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, Sept. 17, the 260th day of 2014. There are 105 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We are told league merchants have paid no attention to the prohibition on selling ammunition, but continue to sell just as before the order was issued.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The Rev. R.F. Sweet, rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish, left for the East to visit his boyhood home in Boston before attending the general convention of the Episcopal Church in New York.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dr. E.A. Anderson was named to succeed Dr. E.L. Kerns as head physician of the Modern Woodmen of America, and moved to Rock Island from Holdingford, Minn.
1939 -- 75 years ago: One week late, because of the outbreak of war, Dr. E.L. Beyer resumed his work as professor of romance languages at Augustana College. Dr. and Mrs. Beyer left Germany on the last train to the Belgian border.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Employees in Turnstyle stores in Moline and Davenport will vote Oct. 2 in an election set up by the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Employees will vote either for the Retail Clerk International or for no union.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Rock Island High School is considering a step to help teen moms stay in school and get their diploma. The school board is expected to vote tonight on instituting an on-site child care center.

(More History)