The owners of area gun ranges say Illinois’ new concealed-carry law will mean an economic boost for their establishments.
The law, which passed last week with an override of Gov. Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto, requires 16 hours of instruction and live-fire training. To Thomas Dorsch, operations director for On Target Range and Tactical Training Center in Crystal Lake, more people will be buying firearms and pursuing the training to obtain the permit. On Target has 24 shooting lanes, 12 each for pistols and rifles.
“Economically, across the board, it will be a shot in the arm as far as folks not only needing training, but needing a gun, needing accessories and needing practice,” Dorsch said.
Greg Tropino, owner and president of G.A.T. Guns in East Dundee, agrees. His store, which he boasts is the nation’s largest at almost 60,000 square feet, just opened an expansion with 40 new shooting lanes, bringing his total to 64.
Tropino said most states require only a four-hour course to obtain a concealed-carry permit.
Although the Illinois State Police have yet to develop the guidelines for what the course must include, the law sets down a live-fire qualification with 30 rounds.
“This is going to be a very comprehensive teaching,” Tropino said. “A lot of states are nowhere near as stringent. I think people who are going to go through this [course] will be a lot more educated.”
State lawmakers approved a concealed-carry bill after a federal court last December struck down Illinois’ total ban on carrying concealed weapons as unconstitutional. Illinois was the only remaining state with such a ban – a decade ago, there were seven states with total bans, including neighboring Wisconsin and Missouri, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Illinois’ new law allows residents with a valid FOID card to obtain a five-year concealed-carry permit for a $150 fee after completing the training course, which at 16 hours is the longest of any state. If forbids carrying in a number of locations, mandates increased mental health reporting requirements and allows local law enforcement to object to granting a license to anyone they feel is a danger to himself or others.
It will not be until early next year that permits will start to be issued. The state police have 180 days to set up the permit system and the training process, and it will take about 90 days to screen the first round of applicants – the agency estimates it will receive more than 300,000 applications in the first year, spokeswoman Monique Bond said.
Sales of guns, ammunition and accessories have been surging nationwide in recent years, as interest in self-defense and fears of federal and state gun control measures have increased. The state police have reported record numbers of FOID applications since May 2012 – the 61,172 applications it received in January was almost double the number received a year prior.
Both On Target and G.A.T. offer courses to obtain concealed-carry permits for Utah and Florida, which are recognized in 30 states. Illinois does not recognize out-of-state licenses – it will cost out-of-state residents $300 to obtain an Illinois permit.
But while HP Shooting Center in McHenry has seven pistol lanes, it does not have classroom space or instructors on the payroll, owner Bill Preskar said. Preskar said he could see an uptick in firearms sales, but added that estimates of windfall profits because of concealed carry are overly optimistic.
“They seem to think this is gonna be a big boon to us for lane usage, but most of these people are already firearms enthusiasts,” Preskar said. “It’s not going to be as big of a boon as people are anticipating. It will be a big boon for the instruction industry.”
But the heads of all three ranges said they are not about to call Illinois lawmakers more friendly to gun rights with the court-mandated passage of concealed carry.
There were fears among gun enthusiasts in the early stages of developing concealed-carry legislation that it would be merely a part of an omnibus gun control bill. Lawmakers favoring stricter gun control attempted amendments such as banning assault-style weapons, registering all handguns with the state police, limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds and requiring all gun owners to carry at least $1 million in liability insurance.
“I’m not worried, but I do recognize it as a constant attack on gun owners and gun rights in the state of Illinois, and I don’t think that will ever go away,” Dorsch said.
Tropino and Dorsch said instructors realize the “awesome responsibility” they have when they instruct people on how to handle and shoot firearms.
“We want our customers to be the best educated and well-informed that they can be,” Tropino said.
The concealed-carry law
• Illinois residents with a valid FOID card can apply for a five-year concealed carry permit for a $150, nonrefundable fee. The fee is $300 for nonresidents.
• Permit holders must complete a 16-hour training course, the longest of any state. The course is only eight hours for honorably discharged members of the armed forces.
• A three-hour refresher course is required for renewal.
• Concealed carry is banned on mass transit, schools and college campuses, government buildings, courthouses, parks, stadiums, hospitals and street festivals.
• Concealed carry is allowed in restaurants and other businesses that serve alcohol only if alcohol makes up less than half of total sales. It is illegal to carry a concealed weapon while intoxicated.
• Businesses have the right to ban concealed weapons on their premises by posting signs.
• Concealed weapons can be secured in a locked vehicle.
SOURCE: House Bill 183
On the Net
You can read the Illinois State Police FAQ regarding concealed carry at isp.state.il.us/firearms/ccw/ccw-faq.cfm.
You can read the text of House Bill 183, which legalizes concealed carry, at www.ilga.gov.