GURNEE – As several thousand Lake County residents are pursuing their concealed carry weapons permits, the Lake County Sheriff's and State's Attorney's Offices have set out to answer area residents' questions regarding the new law.
A public information session at the Warren Township Center in Gurnee filled to fire-code capacity in a matter of minutes Monday evening.Consequently, officials said more information sessions will be scheduled, beginning April 21, until all questions are answered.
After listening to the joint presentation, Judy Nordlund of Round Lake sat with an unanswered question.
"Is there anywhere concealed carry weapons are allowed?" Nordlund wrote on her scratch paper.
The Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act became a law July 9, 2013. Concealed carry permits were being accepted by Illinois State Police as early as December 2013 with the first permits issued in March.
Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said close to 3,000 Lake County residents have already applied for their concealed carry permit, assuming they meet the prerequisites of possessing a valid Firearms Owners Identification Card, submitting a background check and completing 16 hours of weapons training.
Nordlund, a widow of 12 years, took the required $150 weapons training course to learn how to shoot a gun.
Nordlund said she learned a lot from the experience, which included eight hours of basic weapons training and eight hours of concealed weapons training.
However, Nordlund said she has no intention of carrying her weapon within the county because of complications with restricted handgun locations.
Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Dan Kleinhubert was straight-forward in telling residents that they will not being able to bring their handguns to most local facilities.
According to the Concealed Carry Law, handguns are prohibited, even with a permit, in schools, pre-schools, federal and state offices, court houses, local government buildings, jails and prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, mental health facilities, public transportation services, restaurants with 50 percent of revenue coming from alcohol sales, public gatherings, special events, public playgrounds, public parks, athletic fields, bike paths, the Cook County Forest Preserve, gambling facilities, horse racing tracks, stadiums and arenas, public libraries, airports, amusement parks, museums, zoos, nuclear facilities and private property properly posted.
Kleinhubert said "concealed carry" means having a loaded or unloaded gun carried "on or about your person, completely or mostly concealed from public view, or on or about a vehicle."
Concealed carry weapons are allowed in parking lots so long as they are not in plain sight. Permits will be suspended or revoked if individuals are caught bringing their handguns into prohibited areas, but Lake County Sheriff Deputy Roman Buchberger said the police force is on a learning curve as well.
"The law allows an officer to ask those stopped in a traffic violation to disclose whether or not they are carrying weapons in the car," Buchberger said. "Just be straight forward with the police. This law is new for everyone. We aren't out on a witch hunt. Conduct yourselves appropriately and respectfully and you will be treated the same in return."
Buchberger said police are not looking to confiscate legal weapons, but safety is the police force's top priority.
"Don't do anything suspicious," he said. "We are trained to look for red flags like people digging around their cars. Just keep your hands on the wheel and we can discuss why you were stopped – for suspicious activity or under probable cause. This law does not change how we do our job. The people that are applying for concealed carry permits aren't the people we are worried about."
Buchberger said concealed carry weapons can be loaded in the car but must be kept in an acceptable case such as a glove box. A handgun can be carried concealed on Lake County bike trails, but the remainder of Lake County forest preserve property will be marked with signage of where weapons are prohibited.
Private property owners must place their "guns prohibited" signs at eye level upon entering each facility. Anything posted at foot level is not legal.
Officials urged residents to be responsible with their weapons."Plan where you are going and know you can't bring your weapon into most places," Kleinhubert said.
One resident voiced concerns of concealed carry weapons being stolen.
Buchberger relied, "If you're going to carry it, accept the responsibility that other people out there are going to try to take what you have. It's going to be a target folks. Use common sense."
Safety tips for owning a firearm:- Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.-Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use.- Don't rely on your gun's safety.- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.- Use proper ammunition.- If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, handle it with care.- Always wear eye and ear protection when shooting at the range.- Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting.- Do not alter or modify your gun and have it secured regularly.- Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm you are using.- Use your trigger lock.- Always store your firearm in a safe place.- Keep your firearm out of the reach of children and adolescents.– Provided by Lake County State's Attorney and Sheriff's offices