If you’re out at dinner next week, the person at the table next to you just might have a gun tucked under his or her coat. And it would be perfectly legal.

On Friday, Illinois State Police officials said they had approved 5,000 concealed carry applications. The new licenses are expected to arrive in mailboxes next week and upon receipt will allow bearers to carry guns in public.

The first round of licenses was approved weeks ahead of schedule, but those licenses represent only a fraction of the 50,000 applications state police have received since opening the process to the public in January. Officials had 90 days to process the applications, so many didn’t expect the licenses to start going out until April.

“A lot of people thought the state police was dragging their feet, but they really did a great job rolling this program out,” said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, one of the sponsors of the concealed carry law approved by the General Assembly last summer.

The first round of licenses is being sent to security guards, firearms trainers and other residents who paid extra to be fingerprinted so they could move to the head of the line.

Valinda Rowe, spokeswoman for IllinoisCarry.com, a plaintiff in the lawsuit that forced Illinois to join all other states in allowing residents to carry firearms in public, said once people who are apprehensive about the new law get over their initial fears, life will go on as usual.

People with licenses to carry guns figure to be the ones whose lives change more, Rowe said.

“At first people will be excited,” she said of those getting licenses. “And the next moment, they will think, ‘What a responsibility.’ The excitement that we finally got it done will wane, and people will be taking their responsibility very seriously. You have to keep your mind on making sure you’re following the law and being sure you’re being safe.”

Gun carriers might initially feel a little “self-conscious,” but likely no one will know they are carrying a concealed firearm, Rowe said.

On the other side of the issue, Mark Walsh, campaign director for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said he is not sure people will ever be comfortable with the idea of concealed carry.

“This is going to be a strange situation for people in Illinois because guns will be legal in public places, and we always thought that was bad public policy,” Walsh said. “Illinois has some of the strongest training requirements in the country, so hopefully we won’t see incidents of accidental shootings, guns being used in anger and other problems we have seen in other places.”

Of the 50,000 applications received, 300 were denied, said state police Col. Marc Maton, who heads the administrative process for the agency. An additional 800 were opposed by law enforcement officials and are still under review by an advisory board Gov. Pat Quinn appointed to review all rejected applications before making a final decision.

The approval process has been criticized by some law enforcement officials who say it will allow some violent people, including domestic abusers and those involved in gang crimes, to end up with a license to carry.

But Robinzina Bryant, chairwoman of the Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board, said the board considers each case individually.

“The board investigates those cases. We request additional information and look at the circumstances as a whole,” she said.

State police spokeswoman Monique Bond said the agency is confident that the approval process works as it should.

“We feel confident that the ISP has implemented the process with multiple layers of review that thoroughly review an applicant’s criminal history for the (prohibited violations) listed within the act,” Bond said in an email. “It is exactly how the legislature envisioned the process to work, collective law enforcement input with multiple reviews.”

She said the agency is still sorting out the logistics for applicants who are unable to apply for a license online. She said police are on track for taking paper applications by July 1.

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