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 50 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 percent of the total bill. So I sit down with you; you order food, I get smashed on a couple of drinks but your steak costs 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.
Mike is "The Gun Guy" at Evolve, which seeks to bring together gun owners and non-owners to reduce gun violence.