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Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 12:01 am

Concealed carry firing up

A sign posted at the entrance of the Illinois Commerce Commission building at Capitol Avenue and Sixth Street in Springfield shows the carrying of firearms within the building is prohibited.
Illinoisans who plan to carry a firearm may want to be on the lookout for where exactly guns will be allowed. And businesses will have to let them know where guns aren’t welcome.

The Illinois State Police began accepting applications for concealed carry licenses on Jan. 5 as a part of the state’s new concealed carry law. While it could take months before some applicants are granted licenses, in the meantime citizens can look out for concealed carry policies at businesses and colleges.

Under the new law, businesses can decide whether or not guns will be allowed on the property, except for businesses where alcohol accounts for 50 percent or more of sales, where concealed carry is banned. Those intending to ban firearms are required to post specific signage.

Monique Bond, Illinois State Police spokeswoman, said businesses wanting to post the ‘no firearms’ sign can download the image from the ISP website. Beyond that, she said, signs will not physically be supplied. It is up to individuals to have the images printed.

The signs must be 4 inches by 6 inches or larger and posted at entrances.

On university and college campuses, signs will be posted at every building. Those institutions have been given the authority to formulate policies regarding firearms away from campus buildings.

Kent Gray, a Lincoln Land Community College trustee, said the college’s policy is more conservative than rules at some other Illinois institutions. The LLCC Board voted in December to allow firearms to be stored in the vehicles of those who are licensed under concealed carry. Otherwise, the college’s policy falls in line with the state law, he said.

Gray compared the college’s policy to that of the suburban Chicago school Moraine Valley Community College. The college’s board looked at a policy that would require individuals to stop at the campus police department and turn over the firearm before entering campus. At another campus, individuals would be required to call police before arrival to turn over firearms before driving onto the property and parking.

Campuses are also permitted to designate certain parking lots for individuals who plan on storing firearms in their vehicles.

“We’re not requiring our students or guests who have a valid license to check in with police officers, to call ahead and register, to park somewhere out in the back 40, because the effective thing of this is, if you are somebody with a concealed carry license, normally you’ll have your license with you at all times,” Gray said.

Firearms that are stored in vehicles will have to be stored out of sight.

University of Illinois Springfield has enforced a policy similar to LLCC. Gray noted there are still major penalties for those who violate the restrictions. But he isn’t worried about those who are licensed.

“In my general view, if you are someone who went through the rigorous background check … you are the least of my concern,” Gray said.

The Illinois State Police is likely going to be busy handling those background checks. Bond said on Jan. 10 ISP had received more than 18,000 applications. Prospective licensees still have to wait, though, as the ISP has up to 90 days to grant a license, and an additional 30 days if an applicant chooses not to submit fingerprints.

“It’s like a refinance loan. You’ve completed the paperwork, but now you have to get approved by the bank,” Bond said.

For individuals who aren’t necessarily tech-savvy enough to go through the online application process themselves, Capital Firearms Academy owner Jim Feagans has offered his assistance. Feagans, who is a certified NRA instructor, teaches concealed carry courses at his Springfield shop and has assisted some students with applying.

As far as the academy’s approach to the new law, Feagans said he has been strict about what students he accepts. Some students with classroom hours from other certification programs are permitted under the law to skip portions of the course, but Feagans said he only accepts those who will complete the full training. In his courses, he said, he emphasizes the legal and ethical responsibility associated with concealed carry.

“We really push situational awareness. Be aware, be prepared,” he said.

One result Feagans said he has already seen come of the new law is an increased interest in firearm safety by people who don’t even intend to carry a gun.

“I was really excited about that, that we’ve got people wanting training now, to learn how to handle and safely secure their firearms at home,” he said.

Contact Lauren P. Duncan at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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