People v. Bruner

Annotate this Case
NO. 4-95-1016
Plaintiff-Appellant, ) Circuit Court of
v. ) Macon County
JOAN E. BRUNER, ) No. 95CF1110
Defendant-Appellee. )
) Honorable
) John K. Greanias,
) Judge Presiding.

JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the opinion of the court:
Defendant, Joan E. Bruner, was charged in the circuit
court of Macon County with unlawful use of weapons and unautho-
rized possession of weapons in violation of sections 24-1(a)(4)
and 21-6(a) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (720 ILCS 5/24-
1(a)(4), 21-6(a) (West 1994)). Defendant filed a motion to dis-
miss count I for unlawful use of weapons alleging it did not
state an offense as charged because defendant was exempt from
criminal responsibility under section 24-2(i) of the Code (720
ILCS 5/24-2(i) (West 1994)) due to the fact the gun in her pos-
session was unloaded; it was in a case, and she possessed a valid
firearm owners identification (FOID) card. The trial court dis-
missed count I and the State has appealed. We affirm.
The facts are undisputed. Defendant came to the Macon
County courthouse on a small claims matter. At the security
checkpoint she handed her purse to the deputy and proceeded
through the checkpoint. The deputy examined her purse and dis-
covered an unloaded gun in a case and a valid FOID card. Defen-
dant was then charged with the felony offense of unlawful use of
weapons (see 720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4) (West 1994)) and also a misde-
meanor charge for bringing a gun into a publicly funded building
without permission of the security officer (see 720 ILCS 5/21-
6(a) (West 1994)).
Section 24-1(a)(4) of the Code prohibits the carrying
of a concealed weapon, without specifying whether it is loaded or
unloaded, cased or encased. Section 21-6(a) of the Code prohib-
its possession of a weapon whether loaded or unloaded, encased or
not, broken down or not, on State or federal land "or in any
building on such land without prior written permission from the
chief security officer for such land." 720 ILCS 5/21-6(a) (West
Defendant filed a motion to dismiss directed to the
felony charge. Count I charged defendant:
"did commit the offense of UNLAWFUL
USE OF WEAPONS, in that she knowingly con-
cealed on her person, a pistol, at a time
when she was not on her own land, or in her
own abode, or a fixed place of business, said
pistol being carried unloaded in a case and
said defendant being in possession of a valid
[FOID] Card, but not covered by the exemption
in 720 ILCS, [sic] 5/24-2(i)."
Section 24-2(i) of the Code provides:
"Nothing in this Article shall prohibit,
apply to, or affect the transportation, carrying,
or possession, of any pistol or revolver, stun gun,
taser, or other firearm consigned to a common
carrier operating under license of the State
of Illinois or the federal government, where
such transportation, carrying, or possession
is incident to the lawful transportation in
which such common carrier is engaged; and
nothing in this Article shall prohibit, apply
to, or affect the transportation, carrying, or
possession of any pistol, revolver, stun gun,
taser, or other firearm, not the subject of and
regulated by subsection 24-1(a)(7) or subsection
24-2(c) of this Article, which is unloaded and
enclosed in a case, firearm carrying box, ship-
ping box, or other container, by the possessor
of a valid [FOID] Card." 720 ILCS 5/24-2(i)
(West 1994).
Defendant argued section 24-2(i) of the Code contained
an exemption to the offense of unlawful use of weapons which
allows a person to carry an unloaded, encased weapon so long as
she has a valid FOID card. The State argued this exemption ap-
plied only to common carriers, otherwise it is a "concealed car-
ry" law. Defendant contended, however, the last part of section
24-2(i) of the Code, after the semicolon, applied to her as
charged. She argued this section is designed to allow a person,
for example, to purchase a weapon at a store and transport it
home, unloaded and in a case.
The trial court found, while the provision of section
24-2(i) "may allow for mischief," it provided an exemption for
defendant under these circumstances and dismissed count I. Count
II remains pending. The State has appealed pursuant to Supreme
Court Rule 604(a)(1). 145 Ill. 2d R. 604(a)(1).
On appeal, the State has abandoned its contention sec-
tion 24-2(i) of the Code applies only to common carriers but con-
tends the exemption was not intended to allow persons to carry
weapons, even unloaded and encased, as they go about their daily
business but was intended to allow persons to transport weapons
from one location to another such as to their home after purchas-
ing a weapon. The State notes a distinction between taking a gun
to a destination and going to a destination with a gun.
The fundamental rule of statutory construction is to
determine the intent and meaning of the legislature. People v.
Frieberg, 147 Ill. 2d 326, 345, 589 N.E.2d 508, 517 (1992). The
plain meaning of the language used is the best indicator of leg-
islative intent. This rule does not prevail in the face of ambi-
guity or where the literal interpretation yields a result incon-
sistent with other provisions relating to the same subject.
People v. Alejos, 97 Ill. 2d 502, 511, 455 N.E.2d 48, 52 (1983).
A statute must be read as a whole and all relevant parts consid-
ered. People v. Lewis, 158 Ill. 2d 386, 389, 634 N.E.2d 717, 719
(1994). In regard to the specific statute at issue, the courts
have found the legislature did not intend the statutory exemp-
tions should be given a broad interpretation (People v. Goss, 146
Ill. App. 3d 723, 725, 497 N.E.2d 357, 359 (1986)) and, thus,
must be strictly construed. People v. Lofton, 69 Ill. 2d 67, 71-
72, 370 N.E.2d 517, 519 (1977).
Interpretation of the exemption in section 24-2(i) of
the Code appears to be an issue of first impression. Defendant
does not contend the exemption found in section 24-2(i) applies
to section 21-6 of the Code (720 ILCS 5/21-6 West 1994)). The
exemption could not apply because section 21-6 is found in an en-
tirely separate article of the Code from section 24-2(i).
As noted, the State no longer contends the entire sec-
tion deals with common carriers and we agree. The legislative
history of the act adding this exemption to section 24-2 of the
Code (720 ILCS 5/24-2 (West 1994)) provides some background. The
sponsor of the bill, Representative Cullerton, states during leg-
islative debate:
"What the Bill does first of all is to
make it clear that common carriers, that
would be like for example, truck drivers
who are bringing and transporting weapons
within the State are not violating the law.
There's some question right now with respect
to the Unlawful Use of Weapons Statute as
to whether or not they are exempted. So
we do that. *** And also the final thing
would be to define how we wish to transport
weapons when we are not on our own land or
in our own house or on our own place
of business. And we're only talking about
weapons that are not loaded. *** All we're
saying is that if you are transporting your
gun, it must be in a case, a container or a
box. If it's in a vehicle, it must be unloaded
and in a container or a case. But what we do
say is that if you're walking in a city, down
the street with an unloaded gun in the open,
right now, that's legal, and what we're saying
with this Bill is that that should not be legal."
82nd Ill. Gen. Assem., House Proceedings, May 16,
1981, at 3-4 (statements of Representative Culler-
The second portion of section 24-2(i) after the semicolon is a
separate exemption from that of the first portion dealing spe-
cifically with common carriers.
The State contends "transport" means to take an object
to a specific destination. The language of the exemption in-
cludes not only the act of transporting but also carrying or
possession of a weapon, the common definitions of which would not
be limited to taking the weapon to a specific destination. Other
than the portion of the legislative debate cited above, the only
other discussion during the legislative debate which deals with
this point occurs between Representatives Koehler and Cullerton:
"Koehler: 'Perhaps I heard you incorrectly,
but I thought you said that you have
to have unloaded gun in a case now when
you carry it on the street. Is that correct?'
Cullerton: 'That's correct. In a city.'
Koehler: 'In a city.'
Cullerton: 'Right, that's what the law
would do. In another [sic] words, say you're
going out to hunt. You put your gun in a..un-
loaded, you'd unload it, you'd put it in any
kind of a container or case and put it in the
Koehler: 'Okay, and this...and..but what
about carrying it on the street?'
Cullerton: 'It has to be in a...'
Koehler: 'It has to be in a case.'
Cullerton: ' Right. Only if it's
in the city. If you're out in the..outside of
an corporated area, you can have it in the open.
Okay? But if you're on the street, walking
down the street with a gun unloaded, it would
be against the law.'" 82nd Ill. Gen. Assem.,
House Proceedings, May 16, 1981, at 5-6 (state-
ments of Representatives Koehler and Cullerton).
We include the portions of the legislative debate not
because we believe they are determinative, but simply to demon-
strate the legislature was considering the assorted applications
of the exemption. The best indication of legislative intent is
the language of the exemption as adopted. Even allowing for the
strict construction of the exemption provided in section 24-2(i),
the legislature intended the exemption to apply not only to
transporting a gun as in the situation of purchasing a gun and
transporting it home or transporting a hunting rifle to the loca-
tion of the hunt, but to also apply to the carrying and posses-
sion of a gun while simply walking down the street. We agree
with the trial court the exemption "may allow for mischief."
However, it clearly applies to defendant because her pistol was
unloaded, in a case and she had a valid FOID card. The exemption
did not require her to be transporting the pistol to a specific
location in order to hunt or target shoot or take a recently
purchased weapon to her residence. The State suggests this ex-
emption, as interpreted by defendant, would actually provide a
"concealed carry" law. We note concealed carry laws deal with
the concealed possession of a weapon in a holster and do not
provide the weapon must be unloaded. See Fla. Stat. Ann. 790.06
(West Supp. 1996); Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann. art. 4413(29ee)
(Vernon Supp. 1997). The exemption here specifically provides
the weapon must be unloaded and in a case.
Our ruling is not an endorsement of the defendant's
behavior. Citizens carrying unloaded weapons, even if encased,
into courthouses is a prelude to violence. Unloaded weapons can
readily be loaded. Arguably, a violation of section 21-6(a) of
the Code should be a felony rather than a misdemeanor. The ex-
emption provided by the legislature permits the defendant under
these circumstances to avoid prosecution under section 24-2(i) of
the Code for the felony charge, but she remains subject to the
misdemeanor offense proscribed by section 21-6(a) of the Code.
The remedy for the mischief noted by the trial court is a matter
for the legislature.
The judgment of the trial court dismissing count I due
to the exemption provided in section 24-2(i) of the Code is af-
COOK and GREEN, JJ., concur.