With a judicial gun to our heads, the Illinois General Assembly last year enacted a deeply flawed law allowing Illinois residents to carry concealed weapons in public. Mislabeled as a "compromise," the law is dangerously lenient. It also takes authority away from local governments and police chiefs to take actions they believe are necessary to protect their communities.
I voted against this flawed legislation. Even though we were operating under a mandate from a federal appeals court to allow concealed weapons in Illinois, the General Assembly went too far.
I will work with colleagues during the current legislative session to restore some measure of balance to a law that jeopardizes public safety. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has reported that of nearly 9,500 county residents who applied for five-year concealed carry permits since early January, 300 had records for domestic violence, gang activity, gun crimes, sex crimes, burglary and other criminal activity.Yet, the Illinois State Police had given initial approval to all but five of those applicants for concealed carry (Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 12, 2014).
One of the especially objectionable provisions of the law requires property owners who want to keep guns off their property to post signs expressly saying guns aren't allowed. That's backwards. Businesses welcoming guns should be the ones posting signs – not those who don't want them in their establishments.
The new law also requires signs be posted at schools, parks, libraries, museums, and zoos, on the CTA and Metra—even though the law prohibits concealed weapons in all those places. I would expect most churches and temples—in which the law inexplicably allows concealed guns—to post signs as well. The same goes for restaurants. We will see these "no guns allowed" signs everywhere.
While you won't have to post one of these signs at your own home, the presumption remains that a gun owner can carry a concealed gun anywhere there is no sign. Unless you post a sign or tell your houseguest to leave his gun in the car, he can carry it into your living room without telling you.
Since the concealed carry law took effect, I've been getting a lot of questions about where guns are allowed and where they aren't. So let's simplify the situation for
everyone. I've introduced legislation – Senate Bill 2669 -- that essentially says to churches, restaurants, and business owners: "Post a sign if guns are welcome. No sign? No guns."
I received a call this week from an Oak Park mom troubled by having to explain to her six-year-old why there were suddenly pictures of guns everywhere. I'm told psychiatrists and psychologists are investigating the effects of the visual bombardment we will endure, particularly on our children. Senate Bill 2669 might address that risk.
The Oak Park/River Forest Chamber of Commerce is hearing from some businesses that don't want individuals to carry weapons in their stores and restaurants, but are hesitant to put up a sign that might offend some customers.
Says Erin Hill, an Oak Park business owner and Chamber member, "Individuals should have express permission to carry a concealed firearm into others' private property—home or otherwise."
Amen to that.
Senator Don Harmon, a lifelong Oak Parker, is a Democrat representing the 39th Illinois Legislative District. He is President Pro Tempore of the Illinois Senate.