Illinois considers concealed carry law...again

Some Illinois lawmakers are trying once again to give residents the right to carry concealed weapons.

The proposed legislation would create the Family and Personal Protection Act.

We broke down the facts for this KHQA FactFinder report.

It would let the state of Illinois issue permits to carry concealed firearms, but only after gun owners complete an extensive application process.

That would include training courses in handgun use, safety and marksmanship. Applicants also would pay registration fees, plus undergo extensive background checks, fingerprinting, and mental evaluations.

They would also have to through the process to renew their permits. Chicago-area lawmakers have opposed similar bills in the past, which has squashed the passage of the law.

Gun control groups also oppose such laws. They believe more guns in circulation means more danger, and say most people will never use a gun to defend themselves.

Interestingly enough, Illinois is one of only two states without a conceal-and-carry law on the books.

Gun owners downstate support this legislation.

G un owner Clive Courty said, "I think it's long overdue."

Clive Courty owns GunFun in Quincy. He's spent years watching previous concealed carry laws get voted down in Illinois. He believes such a law is important to the safety of law-abiding citizens.

Courty said, "Conceal and carry is basically an insurance policy. If the state has it, criminals do not know who's carrying a firearm and who isn't, so it's to our advantage. "

Support for a concealed carry law also is coming from an unlikely direction - The Illinois Sheriff's Association.

For the first time, the organization is backing this legislation because of its emphasis on training and extensive background checks.

Adams County Sheriff Brent Fischer said, "If we talk about bad guys we don't want to have guns, they're finding ways to get guns. So we look at people have to protect their lives and property and this is something that should weed people out. We're not putting guns into the bad guys' hands, but into the hands of folks trying to protect themselves and their property."

Adams County Sheriff Brent Fischer told me the Association would like the application process to begin with background checks at *local* sheriff's departments, where it could be approved or denied. Applicants getting the green light at the county level would pass onto a second level of checks at the state level. That would put all concealed carry gun owners into a single, state-wide data base.

Sheriff Fischer said, "That way, if one of our officers would come across someone in a vehicle stop, they could run the name and it would alert them that they did have a concealed carry permit so that our officers remain safe. They know they are approaching someone who could have a conceal and carry gun on them. "

And with the Sheriff's Association's support, gun owners like Courty hope concealed carry legislation just might make it this time.

Courty said, " It will be a safer state on account of it. "

Other supporters of the legislation told KHQA they support all training and background checks necessary to be approved for concealed carry. If the legislation in Springfield now becomes law, it will supersede local ordinances which prohibit concealed carry permits.

The state of Missouri approved concealed carry back in 2003. We checked in with the Marion County Sheriff's Department in early 2004 when it started the application process for gun owners. KHQA checked with the department again today to see how the law has worked there.

We learned 334 people are authorized to carry concealed weapons in Marion County.

According to 2000 census records, that's just more than 1% of the county's population. The department believes the law works well because only folks with clean records apply and get approved.

They do see a rush in folks applying for concealed carry around election times, and after major crimes take place.