Gun law education for police as well as permit-seekers

Officers prepare to interact with more armed citizens

New gun legislation signed earlier this year will not only usher in a slew of changes for gun owners, but also for law enforcement who are not used to everyday citizens carrying concealed weapons.

The state agency tasked with training officers is developing videos hoping to guide that transition along.

The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board filmed three scenarios in which an officer may come across an armed citizen – a domestic incident, a suspicious person and a routine traffic stop. The videos show how officers should react.

The videos will be sent to each police agency in the state.

“The general idea is, No. 1 to educate the police officers in the state about the details of the new concealed-carry law and potential changes this may make in how they approach citizens who may be legally carrying a weapon,” said Larry Smith, deputy director of the training and standards board. “Police in this state have never seen that before.”

But the new legislation might not be a far departure from current procedure, some law enforcement officials say.

“We’re always concerned that someone’s carrying a firearm,” McHenry County Undersheriff Andrew Zinke said. “As a rule, police officers look at everyone as if they’re carrying a firearm.”

The biggest change is that officers must now prepare that more people than ever before are carrying a weapon and could be carrying it legally.

Preparing for changes in the legislation is a two-way street, experts say.

In most cases, a 16-hour class is required before citizens can obtain a concealed-carry permit. The courses review basic firearm safety and rules, the law and places where weapons are prohibited.

“My personal feeling on this is it should be at least a weeklong course – if not more,” said Tom Dorsch, a concealed-carry instructor at Crystal Lake’s On Target Range and Tactical Center. “... It’s their ethical responsibility to be as good as they can possibly be if they’re going to carry a gun.”

A section of the Illinois State Police developed curriculum is dedicated to how permit holders should deal with police.

Dorsch, a former federal agent, says in a routine traffic stop, for example, it’s best to identify yourself as a permit holder and inform the officer that there is a weapon present.

“That way it sets the officer at ease,” Dorsch said. “If you don’t identify yourself and [the officer] sees a gun under your coat or partially showing, then it gives him extra alarm, thinking ‘I’m dealing with an armed person who did not identify themselves.’ “

Under the law, it’s not required to disclose that unless the officer asks.

The McHenry County Right To Carry Association heralded the legislation, but urged those to be as educated as possible before carrying a weapon.

“If you’re going to exercise that right, be smart about it, be educated and be safe,” the association’s President Mickey Schuch said. “Know as much as you can so you’re not creating a harmful environment.”

FOID card owners by county

McHenry County - 39,487
Lake County - 63,897
Kane County - 47,990
Cook County - 340,858

Source: McHenry County Sheriff’s Office

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