A Central Illinois couple and several gun rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a statewide ban on handguns in home day cares, arguing the prohibition violates the Second Amendment rights of the operators of the businesses.
The suit was filed Monday against the state and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which sets licensing rules for child care facilities. A spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment on pending litigation.
Since 2017, Jennifer Miller has operated a licensed day care out of her house in Shelbyville, about 200 miles south of downtown Chicago.
She and her husband, Darin Miller, both have firearm owner’s identification cards and concealed carry permits, but they were told by a DCFS employee in March and April that they could not keep handguns in their home while operating a licensed day care, according to the lawsuit.
“The Millers would possess and carry loaded and functional handguns for self-defense and defense of family, but refrain from doing so because they fear Jennifer’s day care home license being taken away from them by the State,” the lawsuit says.
Jennifer Miller said owning a handgun is her Second Amendment right, adding that that she and her husband have gone through background checks and extensive firearm training.
“We’re just average, law-abiding citizens trying to make our way in the world,” she said.
The Millers said any handguns would be kept locked in storage, inaccessible to children, during day care operation.
Their attorney David Sigale said this is in line with the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act, which doesn’t prevent an operator from having a firearm on the premises “if no child under child care at the home is present in the home or the firearm in the home is stored in a locked container when a child under child care at the home is present in the home.”
He said Illinois DCFS rules are more restrictive, prohibiting handguns at home day cares except when in possession of law enforcement officers or other adults who are required to keep a gun as a condition of their employment.
The agency’s rules say other types of firearms — such as rifles or shotguns — are allowed as long as they are kept disassembled and in locked storage, without ammunition, and inaccessible to children; parents must also be notified that firearms and ammunition are stored at the home.
“This is not a lawsuit about keeping guns in the toy box or keeping them on the coffee table,” said Sigale, who is based in west suburban Glen Ellyn. “This is about saying we want to behave safely but we also want to be able to defend ourselves. What the … state rules do is take that ability away.”
The lawsuit seeks an injunction barring fhe state and Illinois DCFS from enforcing the handgun restriction and also asks the court to declare the rule unconstitutional.
“We’re talking about people who are among the most vetted people in the state,” Sigale said. “The courts have repeatedly ruled … that having a handgun to protect yourself in the event of physical threat against you or your loved ones is a fundamental right.”
Two of the plaintiffs — the Illinois State Rifle Association and the national nonprofit Second Amendment Foundation Inc. — also filed a lawsuit this month in Lake County Circuit Court fighting an assault weapons ban in north suburban Deerfield. That case is pending.
The village passed an ordinance this month prohibiting the possession, sale and manufacturing of certain types of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, giving owners of these firearms a June 13 deadline to get rid of them or face daily fines.
“We moved swiftly to challenge this gun ban because it flies in the face of state law,” the executive director of the Second Amendment Foundation said in a statement.
In September 2017, a toddler at a home day care in Dearborn, Mich., accessed a handgun and shot and injured two other children; authorities said the day care was not licensed.
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