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Peterson: I’d rather not give concealed carry a shot

I feel pretty safe walking almost anywhere in McHenry County, except maybe on the shoulders of roads during snowmobile season.

And I think a lot of it has to do with guns. People just can’t carry them around like a flask of liquor, tucked into their pocket or belt. They need to be stowed away so they won’t go off accidentally.

What has surprised me about Illinois for a long time is that it is the only state in the nation where people can’t walk around with concealed weapons – guns tucked into their pockets or belts. Imagine that: the only state in the nation.

Illinois is the only state with back-to-back ex-governors sitting in federal prisons like the felons they are. Illinois has way more levels of government than any other state in the nation. And with all the duplication that provides, it’s kind of like conceal carry government. You don’t know who’s at your back. Or with their hand in your pocket.

But the headline in Wednesday’s newspaper, “Concealed carry ban struck down,” with the subheadline, “Local officials praise court’s decision; lawmakers have 180 days to write law,” caught my attention.

I thought: Yikes.

In a few months, the guy sitting at the end of the “quiet car” on the Metra Northwest line just might have a gun, and just might have had it up to here at the end of a long workday, and really had it up to here with me reflexively answering a cellphone call.


Car’s quiet now. We’d both get a warning from the conductor. “Shh!” Or something like that.

The way the story goes, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Illinois’ ban on carrying concealed weapons is illegal, that it violates the Second Amendment, that if every other state allows people to sneak around with guns, so should Illinois.

Several years ago, we were at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., and the strangest sign was taped to the front door. It was a plain white sheet of 81⁄2-inch-by-17-inch copy paper that said something to the effect, “Rifles not allowed inside Mall of America.”

I thought: Yikes.

This is one of the biggest malls in the Americas, hence the rather bold name, and it was telling customers not to bring their rifles inside. Like anyone needed to be told that. “And keep your rocket-propelled grenade-launchers at home, too.” And it made me wonder: What kind of guns are allowed in the Mall of America? And it made me think I had better be Minnesota polite or I’ll be mounted over someone’s fireplace.

Then, we got inside, and found out there were businesses that sold hunting rifles and accessories, such as bullets. I mean, they sell everything else. Why not guns, too? And maybe someone from Crookston wants to trade up for a better rifle. So he takes it to the Mall of America for a better model. Makes complete sense. Just put it in a box first, please.

I’m not against people having guns. Lots of people go hunting, killing animals for sport and food. Some people own handguns for target shooting. Some people keep those guns scattered about their houses to get the drop on the bad guy breaking in. And that’s their right. Just be careful.

But to let them leave home with a handgun tucked into the backside of their pants to make a run to Walmart? Just in case a bad guy decides to rob the bank in the front of the store? Bang. “Your money is safer than a low-interest CD,” ma’am, the public defender says with the tip of a hat. Cheers.

My dad has a gun, the .22-caliber single-shot rifle he’s had since he was a kid on the farm outside Barron, Wis. And the gun is in pieces scattered about the house. I’m not sure he knows exactly where they are. But when I was in high school, I thought it was the coolest thing.

I talked him into letting me use it, and I bought a box of bullets. Bruce Krebill and Larry Kleinsasser had rifles, too, and we would walk down the abandoned railroad tracks leading out of Donnellson, Iowa, to shoot at things. Like cans, or trees or squirrels. Like we were actually going to have the drop on a squirrel. Chances were remote. Just like everything else in Donnellson.

Bruce and Larry eventually got shotguns, whose shot covers a lot more area, but no animals were in real danger. I thought about buying a shotgun, but they cost a lot of money. And what would I do with a dead animal on the outside chance I killed it? Feel guilty, probably.

People already have plenty of guns in Illinois, and it’s best they keep them at home or use them in the fields where they are hunting or in ranges where they shoot at targets.

We’re out of their way, and they are out of our way. And everyone goes home happy.

• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate, freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at

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