"Unconstitutional" ruling spurs gun debate between Illinois residents and lawmakers

Illinois gun owners will keep a close watch on the state legislature the next 6 months.

That's how much time a federal appeals court out of Chicago has given lawmakers to agree on legislation that would allow people to carry concealed weapons.

The ruling Tuesday said the state's current ban is unconstitutional.

"This decision very clearly has nothing to do with conceal and carry. It has everything to do with the right to carry," Dr. Dan Mefford, a gun rights advocate said. "Most states, you can carry one way or the other. In Illinois, they have this complete ban on a fundamental right and you have no way to protect yourself in public places."

Tuesday's ruling stems from two federal court cases consolidated in May 2011. Mary Shepard was left for dead in a brutal beating three years ago while working in her church. While she had a license to carry a gun in two states, she was prohibited from doing so in Illinois. Soon after, Michael Moore of Champaign and Charles Hooks of Percy filed similar suits.

The two-to-one ruling sided with their case but left a number of unanswered questions.

"The court at the same time, stayed this decision for 180 days, which if I understand it right, means that law enforcement can continue to enforce the law. But why would you want to enforce the law that has been declared unconstitutional?" Mefford said.

Pike County Sheriff Paul Petty says nothing will change for law enforcement until further decisions are made.

"If 180 days comes and we have not done anything, meaning the legislators in Illinois, then obviously, we'll be looking at other avenues. Until that time, we're not doing anything," Petty said.

He's confident the state will allow some form of conceal or carry in the end.

"Illinois, obviously being the 50th state will have 49 other states to look over. It's not like they're just starting the process, which is a really good thing," Petty said.

Mefford says if the state can't agree on what to do in the next 6 months, Illinois will become a Constitutional Carry state. That would free a person from state regulations on carrying a firearm.

This ruling does not include a mention of the FOID card in Illinois, a card necessary to have to possess a firearm. Many Illinois residents argue that too, is an infringement of rights.

Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn says his office will work with the General Assembly to create concealed carry legislation that protects public safety. The governor says he will insist any Illinois law include "reasonable restrictions," such as prohibiting people with a history of mental illness from having the weapons. Quinn said he'll let Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan decide whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel criticizes the federal appeals court ruling. Emanuel says the judges don't have any sense of the dangers that gangs and guns pose to people outside their courtrooms. Emanuel ridiculed judges during a Wednesday news conference. The mayor told reporters he wouldn't offer advice to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, as she weighs whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the mayor says that his legal staff and the police department are at Madigan's disposal.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)