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home : news : state news free November 24, 2015

6/13/2013 11:06:00 AM
Cook Co. Sheriff: gun bill 'fatally flawed'

CHICAGO (AP) — The sheriff of Illinois’ most populous county told Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday that the concealed carry bill awaiting his signature is “fatally flawed” — a warning that stands in contrast to decisions by a two downstate prosecutors who, tired of waiting on the governor, are telling residents they can carry weapons.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart does not ask Quinn to veto the bill state lawmakers approved last month. But the sheriff of the county that includes Chicago harshly criticized the provision in the bill that requires law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to object to a governor-appointed panel if they suspect applicants are dangerous to themselves or others.

He wrote that if Quinn signs the bill into law as it is written, it will be impossible for his office and other agencies to adequately investigate what he expects will be a flood of applications, meaning that some people who should not be granted concealed carry permits will get them.

“This bill creates a process that is designed to fail and will put Illinois communities at increased risk,” Dart wrote. “This bill is fatally flawed and creates the illusion of public safety.”

In an interview, the sheriff said that perhaps in small counties law enforcement might be able to keep up, but it would be impossible in Cook County, the state’s most populous county where there are more than 358,000 registered gun owners. And he said the job will be made all the more difficult because he said he sees no requirement that applicants reveal if they have received any mental health counseling or any other information that might raise any concerns among law enforcement.

“All we are given is a name, that’s it,” Dart said.

The sheriff said he is particularly troubled by the bill’s lack of any provision that would allow law enforcement to do anything if they come across information after applicants are granted concealed carry permits that suggests they are dangerous to themselves or others.

“If we find out later there is a well-known Gangster Disciple (gang member) who got a permit and everyone agrees that it should have been prevented, there is nothing we can do about it,” he said.  

But while Dart was voicing the frustrations of a sheriff in a densely populated urban area, officials in more rural areas were voicing their own frustrations with the governor that boiled down to this: enough is enough.

After waiting months for lawmakers to enact a bill as a federal appeals court ordered them to do last year when it threw out the state’s prohibition on concealed weapons, one downstate prosecutor joined a fellow prosecutor in deciding that he will stop prosecuting the prohibition on guns in public.

“It’s definitely something I’ve been considering quite a while, and I think I’m on strong constitutional ground,” said Randolph County State’s Attorney Jeremy Walker. “I don’t want to do something just to get my name in the paper. But (state lawmakers) could have resolved this issue in January and had something in effect by now.”

Others have joined suit. Days ago, Walker’s counterpart in suburban St. Louis’ Madison County issued a similar declaration. And the sheriff in Clinton County has said that any armed person found in his jurisdiction from counties that allow concealed weapons won’t be arrested for packing heat.

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