The signs are everywhere.

The Firearms Concealed Carry Act is making its presence felt, meaning people with special permts are allowed to carry a concealed weapon in specially-designated areas.

But what does this mean for Illinois residents as a whole?

1. Permit application numbers are high

What has higher numbers: concealed-carry permits or healthcare enrollment?

According to the Chicago Tribune, about 61,000 people in Illinois signed up for new healthcare insurance plans since enrollment started in October through December. While the Illinois State police released that 23,000 people have signed up for a concealed-carry license within the first week applications became available. The number of carry permits has outpaced the number of people seeking health insurance.

Also, concealed-carry class enrollment remains strong, said Kemp Smith, a concealed-carry permit holder in 47 states, soon to be 48, and certified instructor. Smith said many instructors have full classes and are opening more and expect the numbers to stay high through the summer.

2. There are places people cannot carry

Walking through schools lately, someone might start humming the chorus from the 1970s hit “Signs” by Five Man Electrical Band. Throughout schools and other public areas “guns prohibited” signs are hanging from doors and windows.

La Salle–Peru Township High School’s board made a statement last week by adopting school policy which denied permission to carry a concealed weapon on school property. This means only an exempt group, like law enforcement, would be able to remove and carry a gun out of their vehicle. The motion is only a formality since this exemption is already in the law itself.

“There are a lot of restrictions on where people can carry guns,” Smith said.

Permit holders will not be able to carry their weapon into several public locations, including schools, government buildings, healthcare facilities, airports, sports stadiums, playgrounds andplaces which serve alcoholic beverages.

Local businesses and residents also retain the right to prohibit the carrying of a concealed weapon on private property through the use of the same sign. The free signs can be downloaded off the Illinois State Police website,, and clicking on the sign information tab on the left. Many police stations also offer the signs.

Smith also suggested permit holders go to the state police website and print off the list of where they cannot carry a gun and keep it with them at all times. He added that just by putting a “guns prohibited” sign up will not keep a store free from gun violence since criminals will not care about the sign.

“I’m not a bad guy,” Smith said. “If I carry a gun into your store, I’m not going to do anything bad with it anyway.”

He added criminals would not be allowed to purchase a gun or apply for a permit.

Peru police chief Doug Bernabei said some local and corporate stores will place the signs f­or liability and company policy reasons, but some might do it out of “fear of the unknown.”

“Over time I feel that fear will be alleviated,” said Bernabei adding that restrictions should continue to remain at public areas like schools and government buildings.

3. Permit holders are limited

Don’t worry. The Illinois streets will not revert to the “old west.”

“It’s not the OK Corral and there aren’t going to be gun fights in the streets,” Smith said.

Smith said a concealed-carry permit holder cannot do much with their gun.

“The joke is they can only carry a gun standing in the middle of a cornfield 20 miles away from the nearest town,” said Smith. “And that’s not far from the truth.”­

The truth is that even though there are thousands of new permit holders, seeing a gun will be a rare thing. Why? The answer is in the name of the act: concealed. The weapon cannot be in the open and if it is the gun wearer will be picked up by the police for violating the law, said Bernabei. He added not to approach a person in violation of the law, but to report it and let law enforcement handle the situation.

However, in some cases a person wearing a gun underneath a jacket could be seen briefly by residents which is not a violation of the law. Smith added that in most cases people will just keep the gun in their car. Smith said personal security is the number one reason someone wants a concealed-carry permit and will use it as a deterrent to violent crimes and robberies.

Permit holders are still not allowed to draw their gun or fire it unless it can be proven it was done in self defense. After a gun is fired, a permit holder will still be arrested and charged.

“People really need to know the law at first because the state is not going to be messing around with it,” he said.

4. People getting permits go through background checks

Besides the background check already required to own a gun, a permit holder will go through another check to be approved for a concealed-carry permit.

Before receiving a five-year permit, applicants must submit a state driver’s license, Firearm Owner’s Identification card and fingerprints to the state police. A FOID card deems a person eligible to purchase firearms and ammunition. The bulk of the approval process will be handled by the state police, but other organizations will be able to help out with the process.

Illinois Department of Human Services has added new requirements to its Mental Health Reporting System to allow people to obtain a FOID card.

“The new concealed carry law broadens the scope of the Illinois FOID Mental Health Reporting System, both in terms of who must report and what information they must report,” IDHS Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler said in a press release.

Information is collected on people who have been declared mentally disabled in court, pose a “clear and present danger” to themselves or others, have been admitted to an inpatient mental health facility within the last five years or determined to be developmentally disabled. These people can be reported by social workers, registered nurses, clinical professional counselors and marriage and family therapists.

Local police also can assist with looking at permit applicants. Bernabei said the Peru police department has an account with state police and can see who applied locally. The department can object to a permit being approved if it felt the person might cause trouble or be a danger. He said they will be offering information that the state police might not have.

“It is obviously going to be labor intense for the state police, but they did a good job of making it easy for local police,” Bernabei added.

5. Local police are trained
Bernabei said the department attended classes and training for both an overview of the law and its impact on local law enforcement.

He said the process should be seamless and not cause much trouble for local departments. Since Illinois is the last of all 50 states to pass a concealed-carry law and he has seen rollouts in other states which did not have any trouble, Bernabei feels the law will not add extra stress to the department.

“The people applying for the permits are law-abiding people. They are not a threat to law enforcement,” he added.

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