The Second Amendment to the US Constitution has been interpreted as granting citizens “the right to bear arms.” However, that freedom is not absolute: every state has its own laws regulating weapons use, as well as its own penalties for breaking said laws. Illinois courts separate these crimes into a few categories, including “unlawful use of a weapon.” This rather broadly defined charge consists of several different laws for a variety of weapons, with penalties ranging from minor misdemeanors to serious felonies.
It is critical for state residents with an interest in owning firearms, as well as other weapons, to understand the various state laws they need to follow. Here is what you need to know about the unlawful use of a weapon in Illinois.
Note: despite the name, you don’t need to “use” a weapon to be charged with its “unlawful use.” Some weapons are forbidden in certain places, even with a concealed carry permit. Others are forbidden, period, and no one can manufacture, sell, or own them.
Guns: When and What You Can Carry
Illinois Statute 720 ILCS 5/24-1 gives strict rules for when a person is allowed to carry a gun. In general, assuming that you have a valid firearms owners permit (FOID), you can have handguns on your person or in your vehicle as long as they are on your own property, or if you are present in someone else’s home with their permission. However, you can’t carry one in public unless:
- The gun is “broken down in a non-functioning state”
- You can’t easily access the gun
- It’s locked in a case and not loaded
- You comply with and have a valid license through the Firearm Concealed Carry Act
Carrying a gun without meeting at least one of these conditions is usually considered a Class A Misdemeanor, which may result in a maximum fine of $2500 and one year of jail time.
Certain guns are forbidden in Illinois. For example, rifle barrels must be at least 16 inches long, Otherwise, it’s a Class 3 felony. If you’re caught making, buying, selling, or owning one with a shorter barrel than permitted, you could be fined $25,000 and spend five years in prison.
More serious still is owning or manufacturing a “machine gun.” Statute 720 5/24-1 defines that as any weapon capable of firing more than one shot without you needing to reload it. Even possessing parts that can be put together to create a machine gun counts as a Class 2 felony, which can lead to between six and 30 years in prison.
Other Weapons: Different Degrees of Lawfulness
Statute 720 5/24-1 also covers other weapons besides guns and considers the majority of these offenses as Class A Misdemeanors. Illinois residents are charged with unlawful use of a weapon if they are caught:
- Selling, manufacturing, purchasing, possessing, or carrying:
- Bludgeons and black-jacks (thick sticks used for beating)
- Slung-shots (weights tied to ropes, used similarly to a flail; not to be confused with slingshots)
- Sand-clubs and sand-bags (containers filled with sand used for hitting)
- “Metal knuckles or other knuckle weapon[s]”
- Throwing stars (concealed blades that are thrown; also known as shuriken)
- Switchblades (defined as “a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife”)
- Ballistic knives (defined as “a device that propels a knifelike blade as a projectile by means of a coil spring, elastic material, or compressed gas”)
- Carrying or possessing, specifically with intent to unlawfully use against another person:
- Daggers, including dirks and stilettos (short blades)
- “Billies” (batons)
- “Dangerous knives”
- Broken bottles “or other piece[s] of glass”
- “Stun gun[s] or taser[s] or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument of like character”
- Carrying on or about their person or in any vehicle:
- Anything that projects tear gas or contains “noxious liquid gas or substance” (exceptions are made if they are nonlethal and “designed solely for self-defense,” as long as the user is at least 18 years old
- Manufacturing, selling, or buying:
- Explosive bullets (defined as “the projectile portion of an ammunition cartridge which contains or carries an explosive charge which will explode upon contact with the flesh of a human or an animal”)
Illinois law also forbids bombs and grenades of course. Manufacturing, selling, buying, or possessing one is a Class 3 felony.
Circumstances with Worse Consequences
Illegally having weapons under any of the aforementioned conditions can lead to serious charges. But they can be made even more serious if one commits certain additional actions. For example, you could be licensed for concealed carry, but you could still be charged with a Class 3 felony if you own a silencer for your gun.
Anyone proven to have attempted to conceal their identity, such as with a mask or hood, while carrying a weapon would be convicted for a Class 4 felony. The same goes for anyone carrying a weapon, including a stun gun, in any place licensed to sell alcoholic drinks, any officially licensed public gathering, or a public event with an admissions fee.
Furthermore, any charge for unlawful use of a weapon increases in felony level if one is caught committing the offense inside a courthouse, park, public housing development, or school, or within 1,000 feet of these spaces. Returning to the silencer example, being caught with a silencer next to a courthouse, regardless of intent, would raise the charges from a Class 3 felony to Class 2.
Contact Experienced Gun Crime Attorneys in Chicago
The Illinois government has gradually created this system of laws regarding firearms and other weapons with the intent of keeping state citizens safe. Still, it can be difficult to keep track of all these complex regulations. The gun crime attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner and Associates LLC are well-versed in the state’s gun statutes, including 720 5/24-1. If you or anyone you know faces charges of unlawful use of a weapon in Illinois, contact us today at (800) 996-4284 for a free consultation.