August 1, 2014
Sheriff Tom Dart said Sunday that he is proposing a concealed-carry gun ordinance to keep Cook County from becoming the “Wild West.”
Dart said he’s worried about a stalemate in the General Assembly on a law to license people to carry concealed guns. If legislators don’t meet a June 9 court deadline to pass such a law, anyone with a state firearm owner’s identification card could legally walk anywhere in public with a concealed weapon, Dart said.
“We would have the Wild West,” he said. “There would be no regulation.”
Dart said he’s proposing a concealed-carry law for Cook County that would take effect only if the General Assembly failed to act by June 9 and the court didn’t extend the deadline.
“I was in Springfield for 11 years,” Dart said of his time as a legislator. “Deadlines sometimes don’t mean anything. We have to be prepared in the event something does not get done.”
Dart’s ordinance would give him the power to approve and reject licenses to carry concealed guns in Cook County. Applicants would have to pay a $300 fee for a license.
Dart said he thinks the ordinance would apply not only to Cook County suburbs, but also to the city of Chicago in the absence of a state law governing concealed carrying of guns.
Chicago Police spokesman Adam Collins said: “If a statewide law is not passed, the city is preparing to implement a comprehensive concealed-carry ordinance to ensure that guns stay out of the hands of criminals.”
Illinois is the only state that does not have a law allowing people to carry concealed firearms.
The National Rifle Association sees the issue as key to its national agenda of protecting Second Amendment gun rights.
The NRA and other gun-rights advocates would like to see legislation that authorizes concealed-carry licenses for anyone who undergoes the necessary training and passes a background check. Those are commonly called “shall issue” licenses.
But Dart and other gun-control activists want to retain more control over who gets the licenses and where gun owners can carry their weapons in public. Those are called “may issue” licenses.
Under Dart’s proposed “may issue” ordinance, he would grant licenses only to people who demonstrate a need to carry a firearm for protection.
Dart said he recently spoke to elderly people in the south suburbs. They complained that the police were unresponsive. Some said they were regularly burglarized while they attended church.
“It’s a matter of timing,” Dart said, noting that those people could have become homicide victims if they came home during a burglary.
Those are the types of people who might show a need for a concealed-carry permit, Dart said. But someone without a specific need for a gun would have difficulty receiving a license, he said.
Business owners who could hire armed security for protection also might have a hard time getting a license, Dart said.
The proposed ordinance would ban concealed weapons in many public places, including mass transit, schools, child-care facilities, sporting venues, hospitals, government buildings and police stations. Businesses could restrict concealed weapons by displaying a sign.
Dart said the $300 application fee would pay for the employees he would have to hire to process license requests.
The June 9 deadline for a concealed-carry law was set after the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that Illinois’ ban on public gun possession was unconstitutional. “The Supreme Court has decided that the [2nd] amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside,” the Seventh Circuit wrote.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan has until June 24 to decide whether she will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the appeals court’s ruling.
She hasn’t said whether she will, but her office argued in a court filing that the Seventh Circuit ruling conflicted with other decisions.