Concealed carry getting a fresh look from officials

Especially now that Illinois is the only state that does not allow concealed carry, some local officials said it’s time to change the law.

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, wasn’t always in support of concealed carry but has since shifted positions, even co-sponsoring a bill that would allow it.

The deaths of several police officers around Chicago helped change his mind.

“Last year, when I saw a number of police officers being targeted around Chicago, I saw that the laws we’re using aren’t working,” Franks said. “I think it’s time to try a different thing.”

In Illinois, a concealed carry bill went to a vote in May, but it fell just short of the supermajority it needed to move forward. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker signed concealed carry into law July 8.

State Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, said that although concealed carry is controversial, the issue isn’t guns, it’s gun violence.

“We should treat gun violence like we do with other communicable diseases and develop prevention programs for it,” he said. “Clearly, Chicago has a problem with gun violence.”

McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi supports concealed carry on a personal level.

“I am very pro Second Amendment, right to bear arms,” he said. “Unfortunately, those who commit crimes have access to all kinds of weapons, and our current statute really punishes law-abiding citizens who are trying to protect themselves.”

But professionally, Bianchi must enforce the law as it currently stands.

“As the state’s attorney, I enforce the laws, and we will continue to follow and enforce the gun laws,” he said.

McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren echoes the position of the Illinois Sheriffs Association, which supports the “right of law-abiding citizens to possess and carry a concealed firearm for the purpose of protecting their life and families.”

The association believes that there also should be rules and regulations, such as permits and training. The bill that went before the Illinois House included provisions for this, as well as restrictions on where concealed firearms were allowed. Schools, courthouses and professional sporting events all were listed as off-limits.

The McHenry County Right to Carry Association has been an active voice locally in the concealed carry debates with President Lou Rofrano as a driving force.

People opposed to concealed carry often say they don’t want a Wild West where there are shootouts in the streets, but that has never happened anywhere, Rofrano said.

Those who have concealed carry permits tend to be among the most law-abiding citizens and take it very seriously, he said.

“They understand that it’s a huge responsibility,” he said. “If you make the decision to carry a firearm, not only do you risk criminal penalties if you’re involved in an incident, there’s also the risk of civil liabilities.”

He questions how Illinois can be “so out of step” with the rest of the country.

“Why do our leaders think that Illinois residents are less responsible than the residents of Indiana, Missouri or now Wisconsin?” he said.

Lawsuits saying that Second Amendment rights are being violated are common. Earlier this week, the Illinois Second Amendment Foundation filed paperwork in U.S. District Court seeking an injunction that would prevent enforcement of the laws against concealed carry.

Rofrano remains hopeful that a concealed carry law will pass, although he’s unsure when and whether it will be through legislation or litigation.

“Illinois is such a complicated political landscape that it’s very difficult to predict,” he said. “I think it will eventually come one way or another.”

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