House Bill 183 creates the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act to allow and regulate the carrying of concealed handguns in public places. The bill contains several serious public safety problems that must be addressed, including:
As drafted, this bill allows people to carry guns into establishments serving alcohol, including most family restaurants and other places where large amounts of alcohol are consumed.
Mixing alcohol with guns is irresponsible and dangerous. Regardless of the percentage of sales attributed to alcohol, any establishment where alcohol can be consumed is an establishment where alcohol can impair judgment and do harm. Just as we have strong laws to prevent the danger of drinking and driving, we must have laws that prevent the danger of drinking and carrying a loaded gun. Illinois must keep guns out of any establishment where alcohol is consumed.
This bill strips the authority of Illinois home rule governments to enact future laws on assault weapons to protect their local communities. Due to the General Assembly’s inability to enact a statewide ban on these dangerous weapons, this burden now rests on the shoulders of local governments, which should always have the right to strengthen their own ordinances depending on their public safety needs.
Restricting local communities’ ability to regulate assault weapons is in no way related to the concealed carry of handguns, is not necessary to address the Seventh Circuit’s opinion, and has no place in this bill. This NRA-inspired provision is not in the best interest of public safety or local communities. It should be removed.
Under this bill, loaded guns would be allowed in stores, restaurants, churches, children's entertainment venues, movie theaters and other private properties, unless the owner visibly displays a sign prohibiting guns. As written, this provision would lead to the unfair and unduly burdensome presumption that—without private property owners’ specific actions to the contrary—guns are welcome.
As a matter of property rights, the legal presumption should always be that a person is not allowed to carry a concealed, loaded gun onto private property unless given express permission.
As currently drafted, this bill infringes on an employer’s ability to enact policies that ensure a safe and secure work environment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shootings are the most frequent cause of workplace fatalities. Taking away the rights of employers is wrong and in this case, jeopardizes the safety of their employees.
Employers must have the right to enact policies that prohibit employees from carrying guns in the workplace and in the course of any employment-related duties.
Limiting Number of Guns and Ammunition
The bill provides no cap on the number of guns or on the size or number of ammunition clips that may be carried. Instead, it allows individuals to legally carry multiple guns with unlimited rounds of ammunition, which is a public safety hazard.
Recent shootings, such as the horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT where a gunman fired 154 bullets in less than five minutes, have put a spotlight on the extreme and unnecessary danger posed by high-capacity ammunition magazines.
If Illinois is going to legalize the carrying of loaded, concealed guns, our state should do so with common sense and a commitment to preventing mass violence.
The legislation should clarify that a license will permit an individual to carry one concealed gun and one ammunition clip that can hold no more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Clarifying Mental Health Reporting
While this bill appropriately seeks to improve mental health reporting, the positive impact of these measures is limited by the lack of clarity in the notification process.
As I said during my State of the State address in February, mental health reporting is critical to ensure that guns don’t fall into the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others. As the authority primarily responsible for licensing decisions, the Illinois State Police must have access to information regarding individuals who pose a “clear and present danger.” Clarification to the notification process is necessary to ensure these enhancements to mental health reporting prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands.
The definition provided for “concealed firearm” is insufficient and must be clarified to ensure that when guns are carried, they are completely concealed from public view.
As written, the definition includes the phrase “mostly concealed,” which would allow a licensee to walk around in public with a portion of his or her gun exposed.
Make no mistake—this is a step towards open carry in Illinois. This vague definition can lead to fear and confusion among the public, varying interpretations and enforcement, and the potential for subsequent litigation.
If Illinois is going to legalize the carrying of loaded, concealed guns, the legislation must be clarified to ensure when guns are carried, they are completely concealed.
Open Meetings Act
Under the current bill, the meetings and records of the Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board are entirely exempt from the Open Meetings and Freedom of Information Acts, providing zero transparency of the meetings, budget, personnel, and other aspects of this government board.
A more transparent approach would best serve the public. Due to the Board’s consideration of protected medical and arrest records of applicants, it is understandable for the deliberations of the Board to take place in closed, executive session. However, similar to the Prisoner Review Board and the Emergency Medical Services Disciplinary Review Board, the meetings and records of the board – unless otherwise exempt – should be announced, open, and available to the public.
Informing Law Enforcement of Carrying
We must always ensure our public safety officers are protected as they protect the public in their line of duty. The law in this area must be very clear: an individual’s response to questions from law enforcement when it comes to carrying guns must be immediate.
Please contact your legislators to share your concerns regarding these serious public safety issues and urge their support in amending this bill.