Area leaders weigh concealed-carry bill's impact

As the concealed-carry bill sits on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature, local communities are preparing for the implications the legislation might have.

The state Legislature signed off on concealed-carry legislation during its recent session under order of a federal appeals court. The bill is now before Gov. Pat Quinn, who hasn’t indicated whether he’ll sign it ahead of a newly extended July 9 cutoff.

But municipalities will barely have time to wait for the governor’s ink to dry before being faced with some decisions. Local leaders will have 10 days from the time the governor signs the bill to decide whether to establish a ban on assault weapons. Not doing so would mean they forfeit the opportunity to enact one later.

“If you do not have an assault weapon ordinance in place within 10 days of Gov. Quinn signing the bill, you would not have the ability to have an assault weapon ordinance in the future,” said Brad Stewart, an attorney with Zukowski, Rogers, Flood and McArdle, which represents a number of local municipalities. “This has implications not just today, but five years from today when [municipalities] may wish they had a ban in place.”

Stewart specializes in municipal law and has been studying the concealed-carry legislation in preparation for its potential enactment.

“I think every municipality – if they haven’t already – is going to question what they can and should do to be prepared for the changes that are going to come with this
legislation,” Stewart said. “Not necessarily good or bad, but all these things we discuss involve some changes to law enforcement procedures, to the laws that currently exist.”

Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley said any City Council discussion on the pending legislation should be done in the public, “so people can hear what our views are.”

While it hasn’t come up at any recent meetings, that doesn’t mean city leaders aren’t thinking about it.

“We’re not in a wait-and-see position, we’re in a gather information and then let’s see what happens,” Shepley said. “… Whatever we do, we’ll do it armed with the facts.”

Some say that law enforcement will undergo the biggest changes to their day-to-day operations. Authorities say officers will need more education and training should a concealed-carry law get enacted.

But Harvard Police Chief Dan Kazy-Garey said his department already takes the approach that “anybody could be carrying, and those people that shouldn’t be carrying are carrying now.”

McHenry Deputy Police Chief John Birk said he is more concerned about the “what ifs.”

There are limitations on who can successfully receive a concealed-carry permit, but what about those who shouldn’t have one, he said. Those include criminals who haven’t been caught committing a crime or found guilty of a felony, a person who has no documented history of their mental illness, or someone with a pending court case.

They probably shouldn’t be carrying a firearm, he said, but likely will be able to. This could create scary situations for officers.

“Only time is going to tell,” he said.

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