SPRINGFIELD — Fresh from a major victory in their battle to legalize the concealed carry of loaded guns in public, gun activists flocked to the Illinois Capitol Wednesday to fight for expanded gun rights in Illinois.
After seeing the state’s first concealed carry law go into effect earlier this year, pro-gun groups arrived in Springfield to lobby against some of the remaining restrictions on firearm use in the state.
“We promised that we would get concealed carry, we promised it would be statewide, and we promised it would be shall-issue,” said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. “We have achieved all these things. It’s been quite a year for us, and we’re very happy about these things.
“At the same time, we recognize that the battle for gun rights in Illinois is not over. We still have a long road ahead of us.”
Pearson, of Chatsworth, said he would like to see changes made to the state’s new concealed carry rules, such as reducing the number of areas where guns are prohibited in Illinois.
“We think that anytime you prohibit a place, it just makes it easier for criminals to ply their trade in that place,” Pearson said. “It’s a danger to the public, and it’s a danger to all the people who benefit most from concealed carry: minorities, ladies and, of course, disabled people. All those signs are actually just a notice that this is a good place to rob.”
IllinoisCarry.com spokeswoman Valinda Rowe said gun-free zones were “killing zones.”
“They are fantasy-lands where we draw imaginary circles around ourselves and around our children, and we pretend that the violent criminal and the criminally insane cannot get in to hurt us,” she said. “They are the zones that those very same individuals select for targets of their mayhem, death and destruction.
“They know that in a gun-free zone, they are going to meet the least resistance of any place on this planet.”
Other concealed carry supporters from central Illinois agreed as they joined thousands of their brethren in the Rotunda in a show of force to lawmakers.
“Concealed carry permit holders are statistically proven to be more responsible and accountable than the average citizen,” said former corrections officer Douglas Boehnke of Springfield. “Just having a concealed carry weapon in the hands of a citizen stops a lot of things.”
Rowe warned that without deregulation, women in particular were more likely to be victimized in city parks, playgrounds, public gatherings, museums and public transit.
She also mentioned fees and the elimination of mandatory registration as areas for possible change in the law.
Despite these criticisms, Pearson made it clear he was happy with the rollout of the new rules.
“In a few short months, we have built and are operating one of the most efficient concealed carry permit issuing systems in the country,” he said. “Maybe the most. The State Police have done a fabulous job on that.”
An early supporter of the concealed carry law, state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said he sees no reason to make changes to the rules for now.
“Let’s see what it does,” he said. “Nobody knows what this bill’s going to do, so I think before we jump to conclusions, we should see what happens. If there are any issues that come up, of course, we’d look at them, but right now, I think we’ve got a pretty good bill.”
Carol Lieb, a concealed carry supporter from Okawville, agrees for the most part.
“I’m so happy we have a concealed carry law,” she said. “The only (problem) area for me is the number of places we can’t carry, but it’s doable and it’s better than what we had before.
“I’m more worried about losing ground than gaining ground at this point. We’ve been through so much, and it’s been so long, and I certainly don’t want to go back to the way it was.”
Henry Haupt, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, reported that approximately 1,000 visitors appeared on Wednesday and no security issues arose.