State

Concealed carry instructor and longtime firearm handler weigh in on gun control proposals

Sycamore man fears losing some gun rights

Dennis Leifheit, a concealed carry instructor, does some shooting at a range in Genoa Wednesday, March 28.
Dennis Leifheit, a concealed carry instructor, does some shooting at a range in Genoa Wednesday, March 28.

Sycamore resident Todd Javor has been handling guns since he was seven. He’s competed in lots of pistol competitions – he even won quite a few of them.

One thing he doesn’t have yet, though, is his concealed carry permit.

With several proposed changes to gun control laws wending their way through the state Legislature, though, Javor figured he’d better get his permit while the getting is possible.

“I’m worried that the right to do some of these things is going to go away,” he said. “The country is in a bit of a state of hysteria because of these school shootings. I understand that. You’ve got other things going on – with police shooting unarmed black guys, and they always seem to get away with it. What does the public attach that to? Guns. Maybe not even so much the behavior of the police officer.”

Javor is one of three residents working toward concealed carry certification this month, under the instruction of retired police officer and former Genoa Police Chief Dennis Leifheit, owner of Northern Illinois Carry.

Senate Bill 1657, geared to increase licensing requirements for gun shops, passed both the House and the Senate earlier this month, but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure, saying it was redundant, because the shops are already regulated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“That’s good news,” Javor said.

The bill would have required anyone who sells 10 or more guns a year to be licensed by the state, and for workers to be trained on properly doing background checks, storing guns, and preventing thefts.

While Leifheit said his business likely wouldn’t be affected, should the requirements be ramped up, he agrees that ample regulations are in place on a state and federal level.

“I don’t think it would drive me out of business, but it might slow it down,” he said.

After all, he and his clients work with small gun shops right here in DeKalb County.

“Requiring gun dealers to pay the state more money is only redundant,” Leifheit said. That’s not the cause of the problem.”

The conversation and proposals have intensified after 17 people were killed Feb. 14 during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the latest in a long line of tragedies Leifheit attributes to the country’s battle against mental illness.

“A lot of it has to do with mental health, and a lot of it – from the information I’ve been reading – has to do with teenagers who are on medications prescribed by doctors for psychological purposes. Then they go off their meds, and that’s when these tragedies are happening.”

The General Assembly will be back in Springfield the second week of April.

On a more local scope, the DeKalb County Board is continuing an effort to adjust the definition of “gun clubs.” The proposed amended definition reads as follows:

“[Gun club] shall mean a commercial use wherein one or more of the following activities occur: gun, rifle, and pistol clubs; gun and firing ranges; target shooting; trap; skeet; and/or, firearm training classes,” it states. “Excluded from this type of use shall be general hunting, the noncommercial discharging of firearms, and noncommercial gun and firing ranges.”

Many residents, including local concealed carry instructors, want a clear explanation of the language, and who it will affect, if approved.

“I’m just curious why,” Dough Massier, an instructor from DeKalb, said at a recent public hearing. “Why, all of a sudden after three years of doing this, the county feels they have to regulate it. Can anybody answer that for me?”

Genoa resident Dan Taylor, also an instructor, said the cost of a special use permit could prohibit him from classes.

The conversation continued Wednesday night, and another public hearing is expected to be scheduled.

On a national scale, since Feb. 14, President Donald Trump has proposed arming and training teachers and administrators, raising the age to buy a gun to 21, and banning bump stocks, accessories which effectively turn guns into automatic weapons.

After practicing firing at silhouettes Wednesday afternoon, Javor pulled out his cellphone to show the chief reason he doesn’t want stricter gun control laws: a photo of his son, daughter-in-law and three granddaughters.

“This is where the warm and fuzzy feelings come in,” Javor said. “I think of my family, and I want them to be safe. I don’t think any parent would hesitate to say they’d give their life to protect their children.”

Leifheit added to that with a been-there-done-that take, as a former police chief.

“Our country is based on that Second Amendment – if we take away our right to protect ourselves, who’s going to protect you?” he said. “The police officers might not be there until it’s too late.”

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