Could conceal carry become the law of the land in Carpentersville?
At least one trustee hopes so.
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Although carrying concealed weapons is illegal in Illinois, village Trustee Doug Marks has found what he believes is an exception to the law and says it's legal to carry weapons, provided a certified owner has unloaded the firearm and placed it inside a fanny pack.
Village President Ed Ritter says Carpentersville has worked hard to clean up its image and that Marks' proposal could undermine those efforts. Village Attorney James Rhodes is researching whether Marks' proposal is legal.
Marks got the information from Conceal Carry, a group advocating for such. Marks doesn't belong to the group but keeps track of what it's doing.
In a letter from Conceal Carry, the group cites a 1997 appellate court decision from Champaign County in advising police to allow people to carry an unloaded firearm, ammunition magazines and a valid FOID card in a fanny pack.
The section of the law that Marks says justifies his position reads: "Nothing in this article shall prohibit, apply to, or affect the transportation, carrying or possession of any pistol, revolver, stun gun, Taser or other firearm which is unloaded and enclosed in a case, firearm carrying box, shipping box, or another container, by the possessor of a valid Firearms Owners Identification Card."
Marks, a Libertarian and Tea Party member who served in the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1981, owns at least one gun but declined to say how many. He says certified and trained gun owners should have the right to protect themselves.
"When seconds count, the police are minutes away and I don't want to have ... a family member I care about become a stripe on the road if it can be avoided," Marks said.
There are advocates on both sides of the argument.
Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, says this section of the law applies only to the transportation of firearms, not carrying them around.
"That's legal transportation of a firearm if (for example) they're going to go hunting," Daley said. "Obviously, there has to be a way that people can go and do that."
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois Rifle Association, agrees with Marks' interpretation but says the law is too confusing.
"We certainly don't advise people to challenge this because you're going to get arrested in certain jurisdictions," Pearson said, adding that towns in southern Illinois are more friendly. "What needs to happen is we actually just need to pass concealed carry and be done with it."
Illinois is the only state that does not have a conceal carry law.
It takes two trustees to get something up for consideration on the Carpentersville village board agenda, and there wasn't enough support to get this issue before trustees for Tuesday's board meeting.
But Marks has the option of bringing it up during trustee reports.
Ritter would rather not discuss the matter. He said Carpentersville shouldn't attempt to weigh in on a statewide issue and doesn't want to do anything that would bring "a lot of notoriety" to the village.
"We would become the poster child for this debate and Carpentersville would become the center of a state debate and we have too many important things to accomplish to get involved in a statewide issue," Ritter said.