Updated: 01-07-16
Firearm Laws
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In People v. Collins, 824 N.E. 2d 268, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a trial court finding of “guilty” of “reckless discharge of a firearm,” and reversed and remanded the case to the Appellate Court that had reversed the trial court’s decision. The defense argued that there was no pointing of a gun in the direction of any individual. The facts showed that several responding police officers on the scene were in close proximity to the shooter/defendant, who was firing his 9 millimeter handgun in the air to “celebrate” the New Year.
A person commits reckless discharge of a firearm by discharging a firearm in a reckless manner that endangers the bodily safety of an individual. 72- ILCS 5/24-1.5 (Illinois Revised Statutes). The State had to prove that the defendant both “recklessly” discharged the firearm, and that he “endangered” the bodily safety of an individual. The defense argued that the State failed to prove that firing the gun in the air could have endangered the safety of an individual.
The Court held that while discharging the firearm in the direction of another person, as stated within the related offense of  “aggravated discharge of a firearm” would require intentionally firing of a weapon knowingly and directly at someone, this lesser offense “does not by its language require discharge of a firearm in the direction of someone.”
Following are some highlights of the Court’s decision (with some omissions not noted in the quouted text):
“. . .[I]n order to satisfy the element of  “endangerment” contained in the statute, the State must establish that a defendant’s reckless conduct creates a dangerous situation--such that an individual was in peril of probable harm or loss.
“. . . Even if we were to accept the proposition that the statute is ambiguous, legislative transcripts reveal that the mere shooting of a gun into the air is precisely the type of conduct the legislature intended to criminalize, and the type of  “endangerment” the legislature intended to protect against when it enacted the statute.”
[Addressing the defense argument that the State failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because there was no evidence that the area was populated, or that the incident occurred in a residential area, no evidence of bullets falling near or around the officers, and no evidence of recovered bullets from the backyard or surrounding area, the Court went on to note that one officer was 15 to 20 feet from the offender, other police officers were in the vicinity of falling bullets, there were four homes in proximity to the location of the shooting, and “[t]he inherent danger caused by the reckless discharge of a firearm into the air, and the obvious ricochet effect that may occur when bullets fall to the ground, are matters of common sense. In this case, what inevitably came down endangered, placed individuals in peril of probable harm or loss, those in vicinity of the discharge.” The Court further noted that endangerment of the officer in close proximity to the defendant would have, alone, sufficed to meet the statutory requirements of the offense.]
“. . . For the reason discussed, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court and remand the matter to the appellate court for consideration of the remaining issues on appeal.”
Reversed and remanded.

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