Measure provides safety, protects rights of citizens
Heading into 2013, Illinois remained the last state in America that prevented its citizens from exercising their right to a concealed firearm.
I have been pushing this issue for years, but everything was finally brought to the forefront when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled all citizens have the Constitutional right to bear arms outside the home, and that Illinois’ ban on concealed carry was unconstitutional.
The judicial panel assigned responsibility to the General Assembly to create legislation allowing Illinoisans the right to carry.
At the start of last year’s legislative session, my colleagues and I in the General Assembly immediately began drafting legislation instituting concealed carry.
We knew there would be many challenges to face and that we could spare no time in creating a comprehensive bill addressing all aspects of legalization.
The first issue to address was the creation of a basic set of requirements to ensure those with concealed-carry permits would be responsible, law-abiding citizens.
These requirements include submitting to a criminal history and mental health background check, and attending 16 hours of training.
If the applicant is an active military member, law enforcement officer, or corrections officer, then he or she is not required to take additional training, while retired law enforcement and corrections officers are only required to take eight hours of training.
Other requirements include the applicant being at least 21 years old, possessing a valid Firearms Owner’s Identification (FOID) Card, and having no outstanding warrants or criminal record.
With these requirements in mind, we also wanted to make sure that any requirement did not infringe on the rights of gun owners.
Therefore, we passed the “safe vehicle” provision, which allows a person to leave a concealed firearm in their vehicle, provided it is within a locked car and out of plain sight, even in a prohibited parking area.
For example, a local gas station may choose to ban concealed firearms on their private property. A gun owner may stop by the gas station on his or her way to another location and have their firearm safely stored in their vehicle.
This provision prevents the person from being charged with having a firearm in a prohibited zone.
After years of debate, the landmark bill passed both chambers of the General Assembly by wide, bipartisan majorities at the end of the session in May 2013.
The implementation of the law is now in full swing as the Illinois State Police is accepting online applications and will begin accepting paper applications in July.
On the first day that online applications were available, more than 4,000 people applied.
To satisfy the training requirement, the Illinois State Police reports that there are approximately 1,900 certified concealed-carry instructors in the state.
The State Police maintains an online database for residents to find an instructor in their area. Courses include the NRA Personal Protection, NRA Basic Pistol and the Illinois Hunter Safety Course, among others.
The law allows business owners to prohibit concealed firearms on their premises by posting an Illinois State Police approved sign at the entrance of their building, premises or property. The sign is available for download on the Illinois State Police’s website.
One unique challenge for the Metro East community is our proximity to Missouri. Many Missourians come over to this side of the river for work and recreation.
It’s important to note that concealed-carry permits from Missouri are not valid in Illinois. However, in the spirit of protecting the rights of gun owners, the law does contain a provision allowing licensed gun owners from other states to travel through Illinois without obtaining an Illinois permit.
While the fact that Illinois was the last state to adopt this law may be discouraging, residents should be satisfied knowing that Illinois is now in line with the rest of the nation on this issue.
I believe everyone has the right to live in a state with gun laws that defend the Second Amendment while also providing reasonable protections for public safety, and I am excited for the continued implementation of this law.
Dan Beiser, is state representative of the 111th Legislative District in Illinois. He is a Democrat from Alton.