Illinois Finally Lets Residents Carry Guns – Kind Of.

Back in 2010, SCOTUS decided that the only state which did not issue concealed weapons permits  – Illinois – had to get in line with the 2008 Heller decision and let state residents carry guns.  After a lot of back and forth between the governor and the legislature, a bill was finally approved which went into effect this past weekend.  And much to everyone’s astonishment, the website that has to be used for the CCW application actually works! It’s working so well that the State Police processed and approved more than 13,000 applications by Tuesday and is gearing up for more to come.  There are over 3 million gun licenses floating around Illinois, and while nobody knows how many license-holders will want to carry their guns, the $150 application fee hasn’t yet been seen as a barrier against the exercise of this precious 2nd Amendment right.

Sheriff Tom Dart

Sheriff Tom Dart

Meanwhile, gun owners had even more reason to cheer because on Monday a Federal judge, appointed by President Obama no less, issued a ruling declaring Chicago’s ban on retail gun sales to be unconstitutional which means that, at some point, city residents won’t have to take a trip out of town in order to buy a gun. The city was given time to respond to the ruling and, if the experience in Washington, D.C. is any guide, folks in the Windy City shouldn’t expect to be able to go walking into the neighborhood gun boutique any time soon.

For that matter, those Illinois residents who take the time and trouble to get their hands on a concealed-carry license aren’t going to be walking around whistling Dixie either, if only because the provisions of the new law that define where, when and how a concealed weapon can be carried within the state are a wonder to behold.  And not only is the law complicated and laced with all kinds of exceptions and variations on the rules, there’s even confusion about how to enforce it on the part of law enforcement agencies themselves.  The law, for example, doesn’t let you bring a concealed weapon to a street fair but allows you to walk through the fair if you are on your way home.   Try enforcing that one – yea, right.

Meanwhile, the other problem with the licensing process, according to one expert – Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart – is that the application process is so flawed that people with histories of violence or mental illness will still be able to be approved.  At issue is the use, or I should say, non-use of the LEADS database, which is a catch-all compendium of data from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that is used to access information about just about anything and everything, including gang membership, stolen boats, missing persons, foreign fugitives, snowmobile registration and God knows what else.  By the way, it also contains a fairly complete record on violent crime. Dart claims that LEADS should be used to approve applications for CCW in Illinois; the new CCW law specifically prohibits its use.  The Cook County sheriff is known to be an opponent of concealed carry, and while his stated objections to the new law have gained him some kudos with the gun control crew, he hasn’t exactly endeared himself to those who hold the opposite point of view.

I’m not a law enforcement expert, nor do I claim to hold a degree in Constitutional law.  But I do wish occasionally that some of the howlers and yowlers on both sides of the gun debate would consider being a bit more modest when it comes to being for or against guns. Like it or not, walking around with a concealed weapon is an issue of public safety, and if sheriffs in states like Colorado and New York have the right to state their unwillingness to enforce new gun control laws, then a sheriff in Illinois who believes that a new gun control law won’t do what it’s supposed to do is also obligated to make and state his case.

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Great News! Illinois Finally Joins The Rest of America in Letting Its Citizens Carry Guns

The Illinois legislature has just passed a concealed-carry bill and the Governor may have no choice but to sign it into law. Until now, Illinois was the only one of fifty states that did not allow its citizens to go around packing a gun.  But a court decision last year and some very aggressive lobbying by – you guessed it – the NRA, finally brought the Land of Lincoln into line.

You would think that with all the recent attention being paid to concealed carry of handguns, plus a long history as a state that regulates ownership of guns, that the new concealed-carry law in Illinois might serve as a model for an intelligent and responsible legislative effort to give the state’s citizens the right to be armed.  To the contrary, the law has parts that are silly, parts that are stupid, and parts that are just bizarre.  Did the folks in Springfield even read the bill before they voted?

Here’s a bizarre part: An individual must apply for the CC license to the State Police and the application then circulates to all law enforcement agencies within the state for comments and review.  If an applicant has three arrests for gang-related offenses (yes – you read it correctly) during the seven years prior to the application, the State Police must refer the application to a Review Board, which will then make a final determination.  If the Board believes that this individual does not pose a danger to himself or anyone else, the application goes forward.

Now with all due respect to being innocent until proven guilty, how far are we going to stretch the 5th and 6th Amendments in order to protect the 2nd? I mean, give me a break.  Does this law mean that if someone was arrested only twice for “gang-related offenses” that their carry-concealed application might be approved?

That’s the most bizarre part of the law.  Want a stupid part?  How about the safety course that requires someone to show proficiency in using a handgun by shooting a total of 30 rounds?  Well I guess that’s better than the safety course required for concealed-carry permits in Florida where the live fire consists of a single round.  I’m one to talk because my home state – Massachusetts – issues the license to carry without any live fire requirement at all.  That’s really stupid, but so is the new Illinois law that gives citizens the right to carry and use a gun in self-defense  with proof of proficiency that’s no real proof at all.

As for a silly part, try this one.  During the safety training, the applicant must also be taught the “appropriate and lawful interaction with law enforcement while transporting or carrying a concealed firearm.”  What does that mean?  As a NRA-certified instructor who has trained several thousand men and women in safe use and shooting of guns, I’ll tell you what it means.  It means nothing at all.

One more point (it’s a toss—up between bizarre and stupid so let’s just call it dumb.) The new law does not permit bringing a concealed weapon into a bar but allows concealed guns in restaurants where liquor is served, as long as – get this – the liquor tab is less than 50% of the total bill.  So I sit down with you; you order food, I get smashed on a couple of drinks but your steak cost more than my Jack Daniels.  Oh, by the way, I’m carrying a gun.  And if a town decides it doesn’t want to allow such dumbness, the law overrides any local carry-concealed restrictions anyway.

I belong to an organization called Evolve.  We started this organization because we want to have a rational and realistic discussion about gun violence that will avoid the ideological extremes which characterize the discussion now.  And we want to focus on gun safety and the need for everyone to stand for responsible ownership and use of firearms.  We have no issue with people owning or carrying guns as long as everyone plays by sensible and effective rules.   The new Illinois law is neither sensible nor effective.  It’s just another example of how two extremes dominate a discussion while the rational middle remains silent and another opportunity for meaningful reform goes right down the drain.