New rules clarify, clean up Illinois concealed-carry law for handguns

Some changes to Illinois’ fledgling concealed-carry law that clarify some of its ambiguities took effect with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature.

Senate Bill 836, which took effect earlier this month, addresses a number of issues raised by gun-rights groups, such as privacy, mental illness and dealings with law enforcement. It was the first set of changes made to the law since its approval in June 2013.

Illinois’ concealed-carry law, which took effect in 2014, is among the more stringent in the nation. In-state applicants have to take a 16-hour course – or eight hours for honorably discharged veterans – and pay a $150 fee to the Illinois State Police. It forbids carrying in a number of locations, mandates increased mental health reporting requirements and allows local law enforcement to object to granting licenses to people they feel are a danger to themselves or others.

The most significant changes deal with the process of applying for a concealed-carry permit. The new law clarifies that the privacy waiver that applicants have to submit applies only to personal records, such as criminal and psychiatric history, that have direct bearing on the applicants’ qualification to carry a concealed handgun. It also provides a mechanism by which someone with a “mild” developmental disability who otherwise meets the legal requirements can appeal a denial.

Another change allows a concealed-carry holder to meet the legal obligation of notifying a police officer during an investigative stop by showing his or her permit. Also, police and other first responders now have the ability to ask anyone lawfully carrying a firearm to secure it for the duration of the contact.

While state law still requires having a state-issued firearm owner’s identification card to legally possess or purchase weapons and ammunition, people with concealed-carry permits no longer have to physically possess their FOID card, and can present their permit to make said purchases.

Senate Bill 836 was something of a cleanup bill to patch issues that have been discovered since lawmakers hastily cobbled together a concealed-carry law after a federal court in late 2012 struck down Illinois’ total ban on concealed carry. Illinois was the last state in the union to deny citizens some form of legally carrying concealed handguns in public.

Although lawmakers had months to put together a bill, they only managed to approve it in the final hours of session, mostly because of the ideological divide over gun rights between Chicago and downstate lawmakers in the General Assembly. Lawmakers later had to meet in special session to override a last-minute amendatory veto by then-Gov. Pat Quinn, on the final day before the court’s invalidation of the state ban was to take effect.

While the changes of Senate Bill 836 cleared the House and Senate by comfortable margins, that ideological divide means that more significant legislation either loosening or tightening concealed-carry restrictions is unlikely to get the needed votes to pass.

Slightly more than 120,000 people have Illinois concealed-carry permits as of the end of June, and the total number of FOID card holders stands at 1.89 million. The concealed-carry numbers are well below the 300,000 that the state police had estimated would get them.

Twenty-three other states honor Illinois’ concealed-carry permit. Illinois does not recognize out-of-state permits – people in other states can get an Illinois concealed-carry permit at a cost of $300, along with completing the course and passing the background check.

Illinois, like most states, is a “shall-issue” state, meaning permits must be approved if the applicant meets all the legal criteria. Eight states are “may-issue,” meaning that authorities can still deny permits to law-abiding citizens, in most cases requiring them to demonstrate a legitimate need to carry.

Several states, such as Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Maine, do not require any permit for citizens to carry a handgun either concealed or openly.

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