It's about time.
That more or less summarizes Greg Tropino's reaction to Friday's news that the state legislature has finally presented a court-mandated conceal-and-carry weapons bill to Gov. Pat Quinn.
"We're the last state in the union to adopt conceal-and-carry," said Tropino, who owns and operates GAT Guns, a state-of-the-art firing range and weapons retailer located on Rt. 25 in East Dundee. "We have been preparing for this for two years."
In 2011, Tropino and his staff read the political tea leaves and recognized the value of an upgraded guns and range facility that could handle educational requirements for Illinoisans wanting to qualify for legally concealing and carrying firearms.
Quinn hasn't said whether he will sign the bill, but it was passed by veto-proof majorities and a federal appeals court has ordered the state to end its conceal-and-carry ban by June 9.
The law would require state police to issue a permit to any gun owner with a firearm owner identification card who passes a background check, pays a $150 fee and undergoes 16 hours of training -- the most required by any state.
"I knew it wasn't going to be like the old days," Tropino said Saturday in his GAT office. "It was going to be a whole new ballgame with regulations and education and training for police departments, security guards and sheriff's police. Classrooms and safe facilities were where we had to go."
And go he did.
GAT Guns is finishing up renovations that expanded its space, enough to now house two 75-yard ranges, two 50-yard ranges, three 25-yard ranges and a 40-foot (11-position) training range for use exclusively by weapons trainees, who also have access to three classrooms designed for gun education.
The facility can now handle both rifles and handguns, ranging from M-16 military armaments to conceal-and-carry small arms.
GAT employee Randy Potter gave a behind-the-scenes tour Saturday, including the "sexy range" utilizing bulletproof glass partitions between firing stalls so shooters can see each other. (Regular ranges use opaque bulletproof armor.)
"This is a really nice facility," Potter said as he led the way to the huge ventilators both in front and in back of the ranges. "When we change the HEPA air filters, it costs about $56,000, and we do it twice a year."
Potter pointed out extra-extra security features such as double locks, security bars and steel grates that required him to use a key to get through almost every office door. He said that 208 cameras constantly keep the building under surveillance.
Potter saved the piece de resistance for last: hotel-grade restrooms (four in all) with stone tiles on the floor and walls, stainless steel stalls and heightened lighting.
This is far gunshot from the days when a much smaller GAT Guns resided on Irving Park Road in Hanover Park (1979-1988) with minimal ventilation equipment and lesser safety features.
"We wanted to be the benchmark for the business," Tropino said. "We really wanted to be the place to go to."
GAT Guns will celebrate its grand reopening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday. For information, go to gatguns.com.