Illinois had 49 other states to learn from when it was told it had to craft a concealed carry law last December. And it had 180 days to figure it out.
Unfortunately, the law approved in early July is far from perfect. And as is par for the course in Illinois, that means the legislature at some point will need to fix things, some of them urgently. Given that this issue only was resolved by court order after years and years of debate, it will not be easy to change what's already been approved.
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What's wrong? For one thing, as Daily Herald Business Writer Anna Marie Kukec pointed out in a story for the Daily Herald Business Ledger recently, the law has created confusion for Illinois businesses and potential liability. Many businesses lease office space or buildings and those businesses don't get to decide whether to ban guns or allow people to carry them inside those buildings. That decision is the landlord's to make.
In addition, because the law is silent on liability, that decision, whichever way it is made, could have severe consequences for business owners should a shooting incident take place on the premises.
"Unfortunately, the legislature did not address this to immune employers from such theory of liability," said Jeffrey Risch, partner and chairman of the Labor and Employment Group at SmithAmundsen LLC, a law firm in St. Charles and Chicago. "We wish it had. Perhaps in the future, this can be addressed in the statute through sensible amendments."
Ah, sensible amendments. Defining what is sensible will be the challenge.
For example, state Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, said he would like to see loaded guns banned from churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship. While exemptions for parks, schools, casinos, taverns and amusement parks made the cut, places of worship were never discussed.
State Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican and supporter of the law, told the Daily Herald's Mike Riopell that it was predictable that opponents would start working to "chip away" at the new rules. "If we find problems along the way, then we can address them," he said.
But what would constitute a problem? A reaction to an incident? Wouldn't it be better to be proactive rather than reactive?
While Illinois was the final state to adopt concealed carry legislation, variances do exist among the laws. Wisconsin, for example, when it passed its law two years ago, did not exempt churches but did address the business immunity issue.
It will be five more months before the first concealed carry permits are likely to be issued here. In the meantime, businesses would do well to attend informational sessions on the law (Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, for example, is offering webinars) while legislators should prepare to improve upon the law sooner rather than later.