Although 2nd Amendment advocates highlight the right not just to keep but also to bear arms, the current legal situation in the United States is that the government has the authority to regulate the bearing of arms in public. According to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority decision in the landmark case District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues.”
But where the 19th century was the century of concealed weapons prohibitions (beginning with Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813), the 20th century was the century of concealed weapons permits. Of course, the distinction between “permits” and “rights” is important. In the former case, the government grants permission to a citizen to do something. In the latter case, the citizen possesses something that the government cannot infringe upon. So, even though citizens of all 50 states can be permitted to carry a concealed weapon in public in theory, in reality the ability to receive a permit and the conditions under which permit holders can carry vary greatly. In fact, most concealed weapons permit laws come with many prohibitions attached.
When the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the state’s ban on public carrying of firearms in December 2012, the groundwork was laid for Illinois to become the 50th and final state to enact a law permitting citizens to carry firearms in public for self-protection. Public Act 98-63, the Firearm Concealed Carry Act, was passed in July 2013 and became law (430 ILCS 66) on the court-ordered deadline. A 180 day period then began for the Illinois State Police (ISP) to implement the licensing process specified in the legislation. According to the ISP concealed carry web site, permit applications will be made available to the public by January 5, 2014 with Illinois Concealed Carry Licenses (CCL) becoming available in April 2014.
Major provisions of the Illinois law can be categorized by the “5 Ws”:
Who: Not all Illinois residents are eligible to receive a CCL. To qualify, an applicant must be 21 years of age and have a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card issued by the State of Illinois. Individuals prohibited from receiving a FOID card – and hence a CCL – include: illegal aliens, those institutionalized for mental health issues in the past five years and the mentally/developmentally disabled, convicted felons, those convicted of domestic battery/violence, and those subject to an active Order of Protection.
Other disqualifying conditions for a CCL are (within the last 5 years): being convicted of more than one DWI violation or any misdemeanor involving use or threat of physical force/violence, or being in treatment for alcohol or drug addiction. Any law enforcement agency also has the opportunity to object to the issuance of a CCL, which sends the application to the state’s Concealed Carry Licensing Board for a decision. The ISP shall object to any application from a person who has 5 or more arrests for any reasons or 3 or more arrests for gang-related offenses in the previous 7 years.
Applicants must also be fingerprinted and under go 16 hours of training. According to the ISP concealed carry FAQ website, the training course “shall cover the following:
- Firearms Safety Instruction – a minimum of two (2) classroom hours;
- Basic Principles of Marksmanship Instruction – a minimum of three (3) classroom and range hours;
- Care, Cleaning , Loading and Unloading of a Concealable Firearm Instruction- a minimum of three (3) classroom hours;
- All applicable State and Federal Laws Relating to the Ownership, Storage, Carry and Transportation of a Firearm Instruction- a minimum of four (4) classroom hours; and
- Weapons Handling – a minimum of four (4) range hours
All applicants must pass a live fire exercise with a concealable firearm consisting of:
- A minimum of 30 rounds
- 10 rounds from a distance of 5 yards, 10 rounds from a distance of 7 yards, and 10 rounds from a distance of 10 yards at a B-27 silhouette target approved by the ISP.
Of the 30 rounds fired, at least 70% must hit the target. The ISP is in the process of certifying firearms instructors and courses.
Upon receiving an application, the ISP will conduct a background check of the applicant, including the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICs) and the files of the Department of Human Services relating to mental health and developmental disabilities.
Cost of a CCL is $150 for 5 years. Illinois does not grant reciprocity to CCL holders from other states. Non-residents of Illinois must obtain an Illinois CCL ($300 for 5 years).
What: Although the language varies, sometimes the distinction in what a permit is called is meaningful. For example, Florida issues a Concealed Weapon or Firearm License, which covers carrying of “a handgun, electronic weapon or device, tear gas gun, knife, or billie.” Illinois’s permit covers only handguns (designed to be fired with a single hand) and specifically excludes stun guns/tasers, machine guns, short-barreled rifles/shotguns, and paintball/BB/similar guns.
Where: As in most states that require a permit to carry a concealed weapon, Illinois’s law includes a long list of prohibited places, including (but not limited to): colleges and universities, elementary and secondary schools, pre-school or child care facilities, government buildings and courthouses, jails, hospitals or mental health facilities or nursing homes, public transportation and related facilities, bars and restaurants deriving more than half of profits from alcohol, public gatherings or special events, public playgrounds and parks, casinos and racetracks, stadiums and arenas, public libraries, airports, amusement parks, zoos, museums, nuclear sites, and anywhere firearms are prohibited by federal law.
In addition, any “owner of private real property of any type may prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms on the property under his or her control” by “clearly and conspicuously” posting a uniform sign to be adopted by the ISP.
When: According to the Illinois law, “A licensee shall not carry a concealed firearm while under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, intoxicating compound or combination of compounds, or any combination thereof,” under standards found in the Illinois Vehicle Code. This means 0.08 blood alcohol content, any amount of evidence of use of marijuana or other controlled substances listed in Illinois law such as cocaine or methamphetamine, or any substance “that renders the person incapable of driving safely.”
Why: Illinois citizens applying for a CCL do not have to give the state a reason for wanting it. Illinois’s law is therefore considered a “shall issue” or “must issue” law because the licensing authority is required to issue a license to any applicant who meets the specified criteria. 39 states have concealed carry laws of this type. Eight states – Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland – are commonly called “may issue” or “discretionary issue” states because state or local licensing authorities have broad discretion as to whether to issue a license or not. As I will discuss elsewhere, the “why” question is one of the most significant in determining who may and who may not receive a concealed weapon permit.
As the case of Illinois’s concealed carry law suggests, not all concealed carry laws are created equal. With these laws, the devil is in the details. In fact there is considerable variation from state to state in every aspect of concealed carry: who can carry, and what they can carry, and where they can carry, and when they can carry, and why they can carry. Among the better sources of current information on concealed carry laws available on-line are: USA Carry, National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, and Handgunlaw.us. And, as usual, “there’s an app for that”: Workman Consulting’s CCW- Concealed Carry 50 State Guide, available for iPhone/iPad, Android, and Kindle.