Editor’s note: This is the second story in a two-part series on concealed carry legislation.
PRINCETON – Earlier this week, Illinois became the last state in the nation to allow public possession of concealed guns after lawmakers raced to beat a federal court deadline in adopting a law over Gov. Pat Quinn’s objections.
The wait continues, however, before any concealed weapons will be floating around in public places. The Illinois State Police has been given a six-month deadline to set up a system to start accepting applications for carriers to get a license.
Terri Kramer, owner of Kramer’s Guns & Supplies in Ladd, is relieved the state finally took action on legislation but said it was “pathetic” Illinois had to be the last state to allow concealed carry.
“We need it more than anybody because we have Chicago,” she said.
Kramer expressed frustration in how gang members can carry guns where they want, and law-abiding citizens weren’t allowed to carry to protect themselves from potential danger.
It’s still too soon for Kramer to tell how the new law will affect business. Right now, she is focused on what still needs to be accomplished before applications will be available. And even then, she has concerns on how long it will take for qualified registrants to receive their license.
Kramer expressed disappointment in the long wait to get Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) cards.
“I had one customer who waited six months before he finally got his,” she said.
Kramer said the system was so backed-up by the lack of employees, it created long waits for people to get approved.
“If they handle it the same way as the FOID cards, we might not see any progress for a long time,” she said.
Once people do begin receiving licenses and are able to carry a gun in public, it causes very little concern for Princeton Mayor Keith Cain. He foresees very little problems with the new law.
“I think it’s a right everyone should have,” he said. “Every state has it, and we should be able to exercise out right, as well. I think it’s been a long time coming that we have this.”
Curt Johnson of Wyanet is one resident who has followed the concealed carry law and has been issued a concealed carry license from the state of Utah. He agrees the passing of the law was a long overdue decision.
“Most states have had it for years, and it’s worked really well for them,” he said.
Johnson said there was talk about the state turning into the “Wild West” once the law was passed. The thought seems silly to Johnson knowing that every other state allows concealed carry and nothing has changed for them. Johnson believes the new law will actually decrease the crime rate.
“Statewide, it will cause crime to go down because bad guys won’t know who will be carrying and who isn’t,” he said.
People who seek out a license will have several hoops to jump through before they are allowed to carry in public. A carrier will have to own a FOID card, pass a background check, undergo gun-safety training of 16 hours, which is the longest of any state and pay $150.
Johnson reassured the steps to obtain a license are enough to allow someone to carry in public. He said he can’t imagine how the instruction in a 16-hour training course won’t get repetitive. In Utah, Johnson was forced to take a five-hour safety course and said it was plenty.
Sheriff John Thompson believes the new law will have little affect on the crime rate in Bureau County and doesn’t have concerns about there being more guns in public places. He said if someone violates the law, the county plans to take strong actions against the violation. He stressed there will be automatic arrests.
Thompson stated Quinn’s concerns with the law were associated with crimes in Chicago. Thompson said he can’t speak for Chicago, but he strongly believes by not agreeing to a concealed carry law, Quinn is only restricting the lawful citizens from protecting themselves of crime.
“The violators are going to continue to do crime; all this law is going to do is provide protection for lawful citizens who choose to carry,” he said.
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