Illinois sheriffs back concealed carry of guns, with limits
By Nicholas J.C. Pistor
BELLEVILLE -- Support for allowing concealed carry of firearms in Illinois — one of just two states that still outlaw it — is coming from what seems like an unlikely direction: the Illinois Sheriffs' Association.
The group, for the first time in its history, is taking a qualified stand in favor of the controversial practice.
State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, proposed a bill, HB245, last week that would allow residents to obtain concealed firearm permits. It would require background checks and training in handgun use, safety and marksmanship. Similar bills have been introduced in the past, and died with little support.
"I believe to be successful the key to concealed carry is training," said St. Clair County Sheriff Mearl Justus, voicing his support Wednesday. "If we allow concealed carry, we must make sure only the right people have the guns. This is best done by requiring training, proper identification, and a thorough background check — including a mental evaluation.
"If this is done, our citizens will have the right to concealed carry, but those who can't pass a background check or cannot successfully complete a training program will not be legally able to obtain a permit."
Gun control groups warn of the dangers of putting more weapons into circulation, and say few people will ever use firearms to defend themselves — and normally don't use the same level of consideration as law enforcement regardless of training.
Missouri authorized concealed carry in 2003. Wisconsin is the state besides Illinois that forbids it. "I've got mixed emotions about it," said Robert Hertz, the Madison County sheriff. "Some time ago I was dead against these laws, but I've moderated my view."
Hertz said he supported the association's position. A resolution of the organization, which represents the state's 102 sheriffs, says 90 percent support concealed carry if adequate training and safeguards are included.
"Good people should have more of an opportunity to defend themselves," Hertz said. "I support this only with restrictions."
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