Exclusively Practicing Criminal Defense for
Two Decades
David Olshansky

Unlawful Use of Weapons

Dangerous weapons and firearms are considered a safety hazard by most people. While the second amendment protects the right of citizens to bear arms, most people agree that weapons must be used in a responsible manner.

The State of Illinois has placed certain rules and regulations that need to be followed by gun owners. These rules cover issues such as permit and license requirement. The legislation also covers purchase and sale of weapons, the types of weapons that are prohibited and the manner in which weapons should be carried in public.

State Legislation

Unlawful use of a weapon is covered in 720 ILCS 5/24. The law states that a person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapon when he knowingly does one of the following.

  • Manufactures, sells, purchases, possesses or carries any bludgeon, slingshot, switchblade, throwing star, metal knuckles or a ballistic knife.
  • Possesses or carries a dagger, dirk, razor, dangerous knife, stiletto, broken bottle or other glass, stun gun or tazer with the intent to use the weapon against another.
  • Carries on or about his person any object containing noxious liquid, gas or harmful substance.
  • Carries or possesses on his person or vehicle a pistol, revolver, stun gun or tazer without the proper permit.
  • Sets a spring gun.
  • Removes identification marks, such as the serial number, of a firearm.
  • Possesses any device or attachment of any kind designed to silence the sound of any firearm.
  • Sells, purchases, manufactures, possesses or carries
    • A machine gun.
    • A rifle or a shotgun.
    • A bomb, bomb-shell, grenade, explosive substance or artillery projectiles.
  • Carries or possesses any firearms, stun gun or other deadly weapon in any place where such weapons are prohibited.
  • Carries or possesses a weapon when he is hooded, robed or masked in a manner that conceals his identity.
  • Carries or possesses weapons in a public place for display or trade of the weapons where such display is prohibited.
  • Purchases, sells or manufactures explosive bullets.
  • Commits armed robbery.
  • Discharges a firearm recklessly.
  • Carries a concealed weapon without the proper license.

Possession of and carrying a prohibited weapon is usually charged as a misdemeanor although it can be elevated to a felony charge under some circumstances.

For example, a person with a valid FOID license for a shotgun who is making a display in public can be charged with a misdemeanor offense. An ex convict without an FOID doing the same can be charged with a felony offense.

A Class 4 felony conviction leads to a prison term of 1 – 3 years. In some cases, unlawful use of weapon can even be charged as a Class X felony, the highest category of a criminal charge. A Class X felony carries a prison term of 6 – 30 years in prison.

For example a person who discharges a firearm recklessly that causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, disfigurement or death of another person would be charged with a Class X felony.


With regards to firearms, a person is allowed to possess or carry a concealed firearm in his or her home as well as a legal place of dwelling. A person is also allowed the trade of firearms in designated business locations.

One concerning factor for authorities is when firearms are kept in a loaded and ready to use condition. Firearms are prone to accidents and keeping them in a loaded state can be seen as reckless behavior.

Threatening someone with a gun is taken very seriously by the authorities. Discharging a firearm in the direction of another person is a Class 1 felony punishable by 4 – 15 years in prison. The defendant would be given the minimum punishment even if no one gets harmed.

Examples and Court Cases

Unlawful use of weapons, especially the discharge of a firearm is considered very serious and can be given a long sentence even when the minimum penalty is awarded by the court.

This happened in the case of a young man from St Louis who was given the minimum sentence yet still sent to prison for six years.

Keymond Gattlen 21, had been charged for multiple counts including armed robbery, aggravated battery, aggravated discharge of a firearm and possession of a firearm with a defaced serial number. The man was accused of shooting Marques Phillips in the stomach soon after he exited a train at the local metro.

According to the police, the shooting took place after a different man, who was being robbed by the defendant, tried to flee to the train station.

Gattlen pleaded guilty to the charge of aggravated battery with the discharge of a firearm, a Class X felony. The man will also serve 30 months on probation for unlawful use of a weapon and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon without an ID card.

Not every case of unlawful use of weapons involves criminal behavior from the defendant. There are plenty of cases where the law enforcement officers overstep their boundaries.

In a separate case, the prosecution dropped charges against a man from Chicago, three years after an incident of beating an off-duty police sergeant.

Joseph Baskins was accused of attacking three off-duty police officers in civilian clothes and taking the gun from one of them in 2014.

Baskins, who is of African American descent, claimed that the officers made racist comments. He also claimed that they didn’t identify that they were officers. His group simply assumed they were a bunch of racist white guys.

Sergeant Patrick Gilmore suffered brain damage in the fight. According to the police record he stated that he smelled marijuana on Baskin, approached his group and showed his badge and gun. He claimed that he was jumped immediately by the defendant.

Charges against the defendant included committing aggravated battery on Gilmore at the time of the arrest. However, the prosecution had only charged him with unlawful use of a weapon, a charge which was dropped in late 2017 after a long investigation.

Possible Legal Defenses

The defense strategy to use for unlawful use of weapons depends on the case circumstances. For example, if a person is found in the possession of a firearm while he or she is intoxicated they may be charged with unlawful use of a weapon. However, if the defense can show that the gun was not loaded and the defendant did not have access to bullets the case is likely to be dismissed.

Another commonly used defense is to challenge the witness testimony. The prosecution’s case often relies on witness accounts. When there is room for reasonable doubt, the testimony may not be considered by the court and the case can be dismissed.