NRA seeks universal gun law at national meeting

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — With concealed weapons now legal in all 50 states, the National Rifle Association’s focus at this week’s annual meeting is less about enacting additional state protections than on making sure the permits already issued still apply when the gun owners travel across the country.

The nation’s largest gun-rights group, which officially opens its meeting of about 70,000 people Friday in Indianapolis, wants Congress to require that concealed weapons permits issued in one state be recognized everywhere, even when the local requirements differ. Advocates say the effort would eliminate a patchwork of state-specific regulations that lead to carriers unwittingly violating the law when traveling.

“Right now it takes some legal research to find out where you are or are not legal depending on where you are,” said Guy Relford, an attorney who has sued communities for violating an Indiana law that bars local gun regulation. “I don’t think that’s right.”

Opponents fear the measure would allow more lenient gun regulations to trump stricter ones when permit holders travel across state lines.

“It’s a race to the bottom,” said Brian Malte, senior national policy director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “It’s taking the lowest standards.”

The push for reciprocity comes as the gun rights lobby is arguably stronger than ever before, with more than 5 million dues-paying members.

The NRA has successfully defeated numerous gun-control efforts in recent years, even after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. With midterm elections looming, the organization’s legislative wish list likely will be somewhat more modest than usual this year.

The “reciprocity” effort on state concealed carry laws has strong support from Senate Republicans but narrowly missed being amended into last year’s proposed expansion of gun sale background checks. Still, it faces long odds in Washington because Democrats control the Senate and White House.

Following a federal judge’s ruling striking down Illinois’ ban on concealed weapons, the Legislature last summer passed the nation’s final law allowing them.

Illinois is among at least 10 states that currently don’t recognize permits issued elsewhere, according to the NRA’s website. Most others recognize permits from only a portion of the other states.

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Attorney General OKs Armed School Employees

AUSTIN - Texas school districts that allow employees to carry handguns for the protection of students do not violate state laws banning concealed firearms at school sporting events or during school board meetings, Attorney General Greg Abbott said in an opinion released Friday.

Although firearms generally are banned in those places by other state laws, Abbott said the state’s so-called “guardian plan,” approved a year ago for mostly rural school districts that cannot afford to hire security, provides an exception.

Abbott said employees or school trustees specifically authorized by school district administrators to carry concealed weapons will not run afoul of the other laws specifying the prohibited places.

State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, last fall had asked Abbott for an opinion on the matter after several Texas school districts began authorizing employees to carry concealed weapons on campus, and several questioned whether the state’s gun laws limited their work areas.

In his ruling, Abbott said it also covers school marshals, school employees who are designated to carry concealed weapons on duty for security purposes under another state law.

The laws were approved a year ago amid controversy over allowing Texas school districts to beef up security in the aftermath of the December 2012 attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 26, including 20 students. Supporters insisted that having trained, armed employees could thwart an attack, while opponents claimed putting more weapons in schools was not the answer unless they were carried by trained police officers.

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Below is a look at the 5 biggest benefits to carrying a concealed carry permit or license regardless if your state is Unrestricted, Shall Issue or May Issue for concealed carry. Unrestricted states still offer licenses for those who wish to apply, and those licenses provide advantages to firearm owners.

Five benefits of concealed carry permit

1. Licenses put police officers at ease

2. Licenses help when openly carrying around uninformed people

3. Licenses allow firearm owners to carry in more public areas

4. Licenses educate firearm owners on laws that could save their lives

5. Licenses make it easier to buy firearms

Conceal carry confusion: Some parks missing `no guns` signs

Illinois’ new concealed carry law has been in effect for several months now, but it appears there is still confusion over some of its requirements.

A ‘no guns allowed’ sign is posted in a tiny public park in Downers Grove attached to the larger park district sign.

Yet right next door in Lombard, there are no signs banning guns nor are there any signs up in Maywood’s public parks — a community that’s seen plenty of gun violence.

“If you were to look at the one common thread in this legislation, it’s confusion,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says. “It was messed up from day one and it still is today.”

Dart says the concealed carry bill passed by the state legislature last year is a mishmash of confusing language when it comes to requirements placed on municipalities and park districts.

“There’s wildly inconsistent behavior here as far as people not knowing what to do,” Dart says.

The statute includes a list of 23 places where concealed carry is prohibited, including public parks, playgrounds, libraries and schools.

The statute also requires ‘no guns’ signs be posted at those places. And while we found the signs at one public park in Homewood, the vast majority of parks we checked have no signs at all.

There is no enforcement mechanism in the law and no state agency to check whether the law is being followed. Nor is there any deadline to post the signs.

Richard Pearson of the Illinois State Rifle Association says local park districts and other agencies are being made aware of the law through professional associations and questions whether all that signage is even needed.

Sheriff Dart is opposed to the bill, so he’s trying to pick it apart any way he can,” Pearson says.

“Every person that takes a concealed carry class has to go through that section and knows all the prohibited areas.”

Anyone with a concealed carry permit caught in those prohibited areas could lose their license and face a Class B misdemeanor.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Park District says they’ll begin putting up signs prohibiting guns in all public parks in the next few weeks.

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Five things you should know about Concealed Carry Act

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, ccl4illinois.com/ccw, 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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