SPRINGFIELD ญญ-- A sea of yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flags flew over the front lawn of the state Capitol Wednesday as gun owners from across the state marched up the steps, called out lawmakers and crowded into the first-floor rotunda.
The same week Illinois gun owners are getting in the mail their first licenses to carry a handgun in public, advocates are demanding lawmakers loosen the restrictions on where they can do so.
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"It's designed to fail," said McHenry County Sportsman Association member Mark Gampl, 54, of McHenry. "You get the right to carry in approved areas, none of which are high-crime areas."
The large annual rally in Springfield has often over the years focused on concealed carry, which lawmakers approved last summer. Some participants said a smaller group turned out this year, perhaps due to the new law.
Under the law, gun owners cannot carry weapons into schools, parks, public transportation, government buildings and other public places.
Glen Garamoni, 57, of Ivanhoe said he was there to help "liberalize the law."
"We're trying to get it to protect ourselves all the time, not just some of the time," Garamoni said.
Applications for concealed carry permits were available on Jan. 5, and the first permits issues were in the hands of gun owners on Monday.
However, local lawmakers have been trying to tailor the new law even before applications were available.
For example, state Rep. Deborah Conroy, an Elmhurst Democrat, introduced proposals to raise fines for bringing a gun into a restricted place and stricter consequences for carrying a gun into a school.
Gampl said the concealed carry law is too restrictive and he won't apply for a concealed carry permit until the law is loosened.
"You give up more rights than you gain," Gampl said.
Garamoni said well-meaning gun owners could unknowingly break the law under the current restrictions.
"Even if a person chooses to carry, they have to be so careful to not be in a prohibited place" Garamoni said.