August 30, 2014
Cook County Sheriff’s officials say they’ve filed an objection to a gang leader’s state application to carry a concealed firearm — and they’re opposing hundreds of other applications, too.
The high-ranking Latin Kings leader possesses a state firearm owner’s identification card, which allows him to own a gun. He got the card because he doesn’t have any felonies on his record, said authorities, who declined to name him.
Under the state’s concealed carry law that took effect this year, an individual must first have a firearm owner’s identification card to apply for a permit. Once an application is filed, local law enforcement agencies have 30 days to file objections with a state licensing board.
So far, sheriff’s officials have filed objections to about 180 applications and plan to object to about 180 more, said Cara Smith, executive director of the Cook County Correctional Center.
“It is exactly what the objection process was designed to allow. We are doing all we can to ensure that applicants with any history of violence or domestic violence are thoroughly reviewed by the concealed carry licensing board,” she said.
The Illinois State Police are required to object to applications by anyone with three or more gang-related arrests within seven years or anyone with five or more arrests of any type within seven years.
But other law enforcement agencies such as the sheriff’s office and local police can file objections any time they believe an applicant poses a public safety threat, Smith said.
About 25 sheriff’s employees have been conducting background checks of concealed carry applicants.
“Some are full-time on reviewing applications, others cycle through. But all of them spend at least a few hours every day working on this. It’s a huge lift,” sheriff’s spokesman Benjamin Breit said.
About 7,000 current Cook County residents and 1,200 former Cook County residents have submitted applications for concealed carry permits this year. Sheriff’s officials are reviewing the applications of anyone who has lived in Cook County over the past 10 years.
The sheriff’s screeners are looking for arrests involving gun crimes, gang-related crimes and violent crimes — as well as histories of domestic violence and mental illness.
About 60 applicants have had at least one arrest for domestic violence and about 60 have had at least one gun-related arrest.
The gang leader’s criminal background includes 12 arrests but no convictions, authorities said. The arrests include such charges as aggravated assault, burglary and failure to register a firearm. The sheriff’s office would not reveal the man’s name, age or where he lives, citing privacy concerns.
Another applicant was arrested 20 times over nine years for crimes that included resisting a peace officer and domestic battery. The man was found guilty of two misdemeanors, but such convictions don’t prevent someone from obtaining a firearm owner’s identification card.
So far, sheriff’s officials have not identified any applicants with a mental illness history that would disqualify them from getting a concealed carry permit, Smith said.
Sheriff’s officials are using their own jail records and a local arrest database to conduct their background checks. They’re banned from searching a broader national database called LEADS, which prompted Sheriff Tom Dart last month to say the screening system is “fraught with problems and holes.”
Gov. Pat Quinn has appointed a seven-member board that reviews objections to concealed carry permits. The board — which includes a former judge, two former prosecutors, three former FBI agents and a psychiatry professor — has 30 days to conduct each review and decide whether the permit should be issued.