Saturday, January 4, 2014

On Sunday, Illinois residents can begin applying for concealed carry permits, which means people legally will be carrying loaded handguns out in public as early as April 5.

In the run-up to the state’s implementation of the concealed carry law it was all but forced to pass last year by a federal court, nearly 2,000 firearms instructors have been certified to teach the state-mandated 16-hour safety course.

Many already have begun, charging an average of $250 to teach would-be pistol carriers everything from how to clean a handgun to how to draw one from a holster.

“It’s been such a diverse group of people that we’ve been seeing,” said Chad Kalecki, a former Kankakee County Board member who teaches classes in St. Anne and Beaverville. “[There’s] lifelong shooters, [and] at the same time, you get people that have never shot a gun before.”

People began taking concealed carry classes in September when the Illinois State Police released its regulations of the new law, passed last spring amid heavy debate in Springfield. Kalecki didn’t start until December, but he and his partners already have certified about 60 students.

Similar to other instructors, Kalecki is booked through several more months and, if the trend holds, he expects about 2,000 students in 2014.

State officials estimate about 400,000 residents will apply for concealed carry, a number that closely reflects the number of new applicants for the state’s FOID card last year.

“I’m pretty encouraged by this,” said Ron Egolf, an instructor in rural Claytonville and the only one in Iroquois County. “I think it’s a good plan. Illinois is the last one in the country to do this. We better get it right.”

All 50 states now have some type of concealed carry law, though some states, such as New York and California, are far more restrictive than states such as Utah and Florida.

The 16-hour course is divided into two parts, a classroom portion and practical instruction on a gun range.

Illinois will not recognize other state concealed carry permits and, because of that, only 18 other states have agreed to honor those from Illinois. However, all the states bordering Illinois, with the exception of Wisconsin, have agreed to recognize Illinois permits.

Larry Kaitschuck said he has been teaching concealed carry classes in Wilmington for the past eight years — a class designed for Illinois residents to obtain a Utah permit, which in turn gave them concealed carry rights in nearly three dozen states.

Illinois’ law is nowhere near perfect, Kaitschuck said, and it still has “a lot of ambiguity and exemptions.”

Businesses can ban concealed carry, and guns are restricted in nearly two dozen places, mostly public spaces, such as libraries, schools and parks.

Similar to many other gun rights advocates, Kaitschuck said the cost to apply for an Illinois permit — $150 every five years — is too high, and he blames much of the opposition to concealed carry on misinformation propagated by sensational news stories.

“You don’t see people shooting each other over parking lots,” he says. “It just doesn’t happen.”

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