Mary Shepard

If you're not a resident of Illinois or didn't follow the long, tedious effort to pass a concealed-carry firearms law there, the name Mary Shepard might not be familiar to you. Here's why it should be.

Mary Shepard was the plaintiff in a court case (Shepard v. Madigan) that helped lead the way toward the passage of HB 183 in July 2013, legislation that created the first Concealed Carry License in Illinois. And earlier this week, she took a symbolic stroll to her mailbox, where she enthusiastically retrieved one of the first state-issued CCLs, one bearing her name.

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 Sept. 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. Left for dead, 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 valid 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, March 1.

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 me 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 she's frequently sought as a public speaker.