The plaintiff in a court case that ultimately led to the passage of legislation that legalized concealed carry of firearms for personal protection in Illinois took a symbolic stroll to her mailbox this week, where she enthusiastically retrieved one of the first state-issued permits, one bearing her name. Mary Shepard told a local television station reporter she was joyous when she trudged through ice and snow and discovered the envelope from the Illinois State Police.
"I got it Tuesday," Shepard said. "It might have made it Monday, but we had no mail here because of the weather."
On September 28, 2009, while working as the treasurer of her church located in a small southern Illinois community of Anna, Mary Shepard, now 75, and an 83-year-old co-worker were viciously attacked and severely beaten by an intruder with a violent past and a criminal record. Shepard suffered severe injuries, including multiple skull fractures, hearing loss, shattered teeth and vertebrae damage. In her lawsuit filed May 13, 2011 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Shepard contended that had she been permitted to carry a firearm for protection outside her home, she might have been able to thwart the attack. She was already trained with firearms, held a valid state firearm owner's (FOID) card and had received carry permits from two other states.
The National Rifle Association funded and supported Shepard's case. The Illinois State Rifle and Pistol Association served as co-plaintiff. It was Shepard's lawsuit that led the U.S. Appellate Court to hold Illinois long-standing ban carrying of firearms outside the home to be unconstitutional. That action led to the 2013 passage of a concealed carry law that made Illinois the last state to permit its law-abiding citizens to carry handguns for personal protection. Licenses for the first Illinois applicants began appearing in mailboxes Saturday.
In retrospect, Shepard told the Southern Illinoisan newspaper this week that her long ordeal was gratifying.
"Before going to Springfield, I said that if my case meant I and other legal firearm owners could carry in Illinois, then the assault was worth it," she said.
Since the attack and subsequent court case, the engaging Shepard has become something of a celebrity among gun owners and Second Amendment advocates, and is frequently sought as a public speaker.