SPRINGFIELD – Days after saying Illinois would accept only online applications for concealed carry permits, Gov. Pat Quinn's administration has announced it will accept paper applications, but not until six months after the process begins in a few weeks.
The about-face came after some lawmakers complained that many residents, particularly those in rural areas, don't have access to computers or are not comfortable using them, according to the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers.
"Many of us are hearing of the hardship that would be (imposed) on many, many of our constituents," said state Rep. David Leitch, who attended the meeting Tuesday when the reversal was announced.
It was clear that the Illinois State Police, the agency that will be taking the applications and anticipates 400,000 in the first year alone, was not close to being ready for the change; one official balked when Leach said he would like to see the paper applications ready to go in March.
"I cannot commit to March," said Suzanne Bond, chief legal counsel for the state police, which is responsible for accepting applications, conducting background checks and offering firearm training for the flood of residents expected to apply to carry concealed weapons.
Bond's comments underscore a concern that things will not go smoothly next month when the law goes into effect.
"I think they are going to be pushed to do something sooner," said Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said of the delay until July 1. "But it shows how incompetent they are."
Law enforcement officials have their own concerns about the rollout of the application process that begins Jan. 5, when the state police would start accepting online applications.
Earlier this week Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart reiterated his concerns that the system to analyze applications is deeply flawed. He said local law enforcement does not have the resources to adequately investigate thousands of applications to prevent permits from being issued to people with arrests for crimes such as domestic abuse or to those with gang ties.
Dart would like his office and other agencies to have access to a statewide criminal background database that would help ferret out people who might pose a public safety risk if they were allowed to carry concealed weapons, but the state police's director this week rejected that possibility.