You were visiting family when things got crazy. One drunken relative started beating their spouse so you grabbed the family gun to put a stop to it. But since you didn’t have a gun license, the police arrested you on a weapons charge.

Can they do that if you were just trying to protect yourself? Depending on the facts, a recent Illinois court said no.

You may be charged with Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon if you (1) knowingly carried or concealed on your person an uncased and loaded pistol, (2) at a time when you were not on your own land, in your own abode, or in a fixed place of business, or you were on public land, (3) that pistol was immediately accessible when you carried it, and (4) you did not have a Firearm Owner’s Identification card or concealed carry license.

On the other hand, you may be acting in self defense or defense of another if (1) unlawful force is threatened against a person, (2) the person threatened was not the aggressor, (3) the danger of harm was imminent, (4) the use of force (by the threatened person) was necessary, (5) the person threatened actually and subjectively believed a danger existed that required the use of force applied, and (6) the beliefs of the person threatened were objectively reasonable.

In People v. Crowder, 2018 IL App (1st) 161226, the court held that self defense could be a defense to a weapons charge: In that case, three men knocked down the defendant’s father and threatened to kill him. Defendant grabbed the gun from his father’s holster to protect both his father and himself. The court reversed his conviction based on necessity or self defense.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Even if the police acted lawfully and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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