The push for legalizing concealed carry in Illinois has been going on for years, but it took a court order to make it happen. A bill to legalize carry in the state was voted down in the House as recently as 2011. But supporters were optimistic at the time, saying that concealed carry would come to Illinois either through the legislature or through the courts. In December 2012, their prediction was realized when a federal court ordered the General Assembly to pass legislation regulating carry in the state.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion said that Illinois had failed to “justify the most restrictive gun law of any of the 50 states.” The majority opinion said Illinoisans have a constitutional right to carry a gun for protection outside the home. “Twenty-first century Illinois has no hostile Indians. But a Chicagoan is a good deal more likely to be attacked on a sidewalk in a rough neighborhood than in his apartment on the 35th floor of the Park Tower. A woman who is being stalked or has obtained a protective order against a violent ex-husband is more vulnerable to being attacked while walking to or from her home than when inside. She has a stronger self-defense claim to be allowed to carry a gun in public than the resident of a fancy apartment building (complete with doorman) has a claim to sleep with a loaded gun under her mattress,” Judge Richard Posner wrote.
In the dissenting opinion, Judge Ann Williams argued that citizens who do not wish to carry firearms also have a right to feel safe in public. “Guns in public expose all nearby to risk, and the risk of accidental discharge or bad aim has lethal consequences. Allowing public carry of ready-to-use guns means that risk is borne by all in Illinois, including the vast majority of its citizens who choose not to have guns. The State of Illinois has a significant interest in maintaining the safety of its citizens and police officers,” Williams wrote.
The ruling was met with strong reactions on both sides. Those who have wanted to carry were thrilled that Illinois would finally be joining the other 49 states. Those who advocated for gun control were dismayed that a carry system would bring more guns to the streets, especially in some areas such as parts of Chicago that have experienced devastating violence. There did not seem to be much middle ground.
Yet advocates on both sides of the issue worked in good faith to try to craft a bill to regulate carry. The end product may not have had public support from either side, but backers in the legislature touted it as a reasonable compromise. When it was approved, so was another measure meant to keep guns from ending up in the hands of criminals.
Whatever you may think of concealed carry, it is the law of the land. We now all bear the risks and responsibilities that will come along with citizens carrying firearms in public places. So, whether you plan to carry or not, it is important to understand the law.
The state plans to begin accepting applications for licenses by January 5. Applicants must be 21 or older and have a valid Firearm Owners Identification card (FOID) if they are an Illinois resident. Nonresidents must submit the information required to get a FOID card to get a carry license. The law allows those out-of-state visitors licensed to carry in their home states to have their gun in Illinois without an Illinois carry permit, but they must leave the gun in their vehicle and cannot carry it in public.
According to the Illinois State Police, individuals who have been found guilty of a “misdemeanor involving the use or threat of physical force or violence to any person” in the last five years or have two convictions of driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants in the last five years are ineligible. Applicants who have been in residential or court-ordered substance abuse treatment in the last five years are also disqualified. Applicants who have a pending warrant or are involved in legal proceedings for an offense that could disqualify them cannot get a license to carry.
Applicants must take 16 hours of training. The training covers basic gun safety and the requirements set out in the law. It also requires trainees to pass a live fire exercise that consists of firing at least 30 rounds at a target approved by the Illinois State Police. Carry licenses will cost $150 and last for five years. Renewal will also cost $150, and three hours of training is required for renewal. Of the fee, $20 will be dedicated to beefing up the state’s mental health reporting system, which was found to be incredibly lacking in recent audits. The new law also requires circuit clerks to notify the state police within seven days when individuals are deemed unfit to own a gun because of mental health issues or developmental disabilities. An additional $10 will go to the state’s crime lab fund.
Any law enforcement agency in the state can object to any applications if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that an applicant is a threat to himself or herself or a threat to public safety. Law enforcement agencies will have a searchable database of applicants, and licensees and are required to submit objections within 30 days of an application being filed. The database will not be open to the public. The state police must grant or deny applications within 90 days of receiving them unless there is an objection. Applications that are flagged by an objection will go before a review board appointed by the governor. Board members are required to have weighty judicial credentials, including having served five years as a federal judge, five years as a federal agent or five years with the U.S justice department. Those whose licenses are denied, either by the Illinois State Police or the review board, can appeal the denial.
If a licensee is found to be ineligible, his or her license can be revoked at any time. If a restraining order is issued against a licensee, his or her right to carry will be suspended. Any court that issues an order of protection against someone who is licensed to carry is required to notify the state police within seven days.
Those approved must have their licenses on them at all times when carrying in public, unless their gun is unloaded and in a case. If stopped by police, the law requires individuals carrying to notify police if asked and present their license, as well as let the officer know the location of the gun. Those approved to carry in public are banned from carrying a gun while intoxicated.
There is no minimum number of guns that licensees can carry, but they are limited to carrying handguns. Stun guns, Tasers, rifles and shotguns cannot be carried. There are many places where guns are not allowed under the law, including schools, universities, daycare centers, hospitals, nursing homes and mental health centers. Guns are also prohibited in most government-related and state-owned buildings, such as jails, courts and libraries. They are not allowed in playgrounds, public parks, amusement parks, casinos or zoos. It is not legal to carry at public festivals or bars. It is also illegal to carry on public transportation or in airports.
Business owners can ban guns on their premises. However, any business that does not allow guns is required to post a sign approved by the Illinois State Police. Licensees can leave their guns in a vehicle in the parking lot of a business that does not allow guns inside.
As mentioned earlier in this column, another law was passed at the same time as the concealed carry legislation. It is already in effect. The new law requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to police within 72 hours. It also requires a private individual who is selling or giving away a gun to contact the state police to verify that the new owner of the gun has a FOID card. Those provisions are intended to help keep guns out of the hands of people who are not legally licensed to have them.
Many in the state are likely nervous about the prospect that anyone they pass on the street, sit next to at a restaurant or have a disagreement with in traffic could be carrying a gun. That is understandable. For peace of mind, try to remember that you have likely spent time in another state that has concealed carry and not even given it a thought. Those who plan to carry should get trained and learn the law. Be safe and cooperate with law enforcement. To everyone, keep calm and treat each other with respect.
For or against concealed carry, we are all in this together.
Illinois Issues, January 2014