Can I be Guilty of a UUW by Just Having a Gun in My Glove Compartment?

UUWThis question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no answer.  Unfortunately, the Illinois Unlawful Use of a Weapon (UUW) statute is a little complicated and requires an explanation. Another question I frequently get asked is:  How do I legally transport a handgun in Illinois?  Here it goes.

To be able to legally own a firearm in Illinois, you must obtain a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, which is referred to as an FOID card.  To obtain an FOID card, you must fill out an application with the Illinois State Police, pay a small application fee, provide a current color picture of yourself and wait for the Illinois State Police to conduct a very thorough background search.  If they approve your application, they will mail you a card which has an expiration date on it.  The FOID card allows you to legally own a firearm in your residence in Illinois.  Until 2013, it was illegal to carry a loaded gun in public anywhere in Illinois.  In 2012, the Federal Court of Appeals ruled that Illinois was violating the Second Amendment to the Constitution by not providing a mechanism by which citizens of the state would be allowed to carry a concealed firearm in public.  Later in the same year, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the Federal Court of Appeals and ruled that the Illinois Unlawful Use of a Weapon Statute was unconstitutional because it did not provide a way for citizens of Illinois to lawfully carry a loaded gun in public.  The following year, the Illinois Legislature enacted a Conceal and Carry statute which provided for a way for citizens of Illinois to lawfully carry a loaded concealed firearm in public.  Illinois became the last state in the country to provide for conceal and carry.

To obtain a Conceal and Carry permit in Illinois, an application has to be submitted to the Illinois State Police.  You are required to take gun safety classes and undergo a very thorough background search. The Conceal and Carry permit is only good for 5 years.  So, since 2013, if you have a valid Conceal and Carry permit you can carry a loaded firearm in public as long as the location that you are at does not specifically prohibit the carrying of loaded firearms.  If you only have an FOID card, you cannot legally carry a loaded firearm in public.

If you have a valid FOID card you can legally transport a gun from your home to another place, such as the gun range.  However, to transport the gun legally, the gun must not be immediately accessible, or broken down in a non-functioning state, or unloaded and enclosed in a container.  A case is defined under Illinois law as a box, shipping box, or other container.  If the gun is unloaded and in a non-functioning state, Illinois Courts have defined the glove compartment as an “other container.”  But perhaps the most difficult part of the statue has to do with what is considered to be immediately accessible?  The law defines immediately accessible as whether a reasonable person would conclude that the firearm is located within relatively quick reach.  So, the particular facts of the case will determine if it was immediately accessible or not.  Generally, if it was somewhere in the passenger compartment of the car it would probably be considered to be immediately accessible.  But if a firearm was unloaded in a trunk then that would clearly not be considered to be immediately accessible.

There’s a few things that I want to point out.  Make sure that your FOID Card has not expired.  It’s no defense in court to claim that you didn’t realize that your FOID card had expired.  Nor is it a defense to a UUW that the FOID card was on the way in the mail.  It’s your responsibility to make sure that it’s up to date and that have actually received it in the mail.  Same thing with a Conceal and Carry Permit.  A Conceal and Carry Permit is only good for 5 years.  It’s your responsibility to make sure that your FOID Card and your Concealed and Carry Permit are current and up-to-date.  You cannot legally carry a gun until you have received the Concealed and Carry Permit in the mail.  I have recently had a few cases involving people who were caught carrying a loaded gun in public who had applied for a Conceal and Carry Permit many months ago and we’re waiting for it in the mail.  You cannot carry a gun in public until you receive the Conceal and Carry Permit in the mail.  It’s no defense in court to claim that you forgot your loaded gun in your car.  It’s your responsibility to make sure that you are in compliance with the gun law when transporting a gun.  A mistake is no defense.

So, the bottom line is that if you want to transport your gun from your house to the gun range and you want to be fully compliant with the law, make sure that you have a valid and up-to-date FOID card on you. Make sure that the gun is not loaded.  Put the gun in a case.  You can get away with leaving it in the glove compartment but you should have a gun case.  You can have the ammunition in the same gun case provided that the unloaded gun in a case is not immediately accessible.  You should keep your gun it in the trunk and not in the passenger compartment of the car.  When it comes to transporting a gun if you use common sense you should be okay.

Chicago UUW James Dimeas handles gun cases throughout Cook County, DuPage County, and Kane County.  If you are being charged with a weapons charge, call Attorney James Dimeas for free and confidential consultation.  He can always be reached at 847-807-7405.

Additional Resources:

Moore v. Madigan, 702 F. 3d 933, Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit 2012.

People v. Aguilar, 2 NE 3d 321 – Illinois Supreme Court 2013.

Illinois UUW Statute:  720 ILCS 5/24-1.

Illinois Concealed Carry Act:  720 ILCS 66/1.