Gun owners criticize aspects of new concealed carry law

An informational meeting held by Democratic state Rep. Elaine Nekritz Wednesday in Wheeling — intended to clarify some areas of Illinois' new concealed carry law — largely focused on criticisms from current gun owners who described themselves as responsible and law-abiding.

James Hopkins came all the way from Antioch to share his thoughts before an audience of about 50 at the Indian Trails Public Library.

He agreed with many there that the event's cosponsorship and accompanying booklet by the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence represented a built-in bias against gun owners.

Hopkins told the panel of speakers led by Nekritz that the best way to protect public safety was to address such issues as mental health, gang activity and poor parenting, rather than restrict the freedoms of gun owners able to pass a background check.

Though the concealed carry law does give gun owners more freedom than before, Hopkins said the responsibility most feel was reflected by the many detailed questions asked at the meeting.

“It does give us more freedom, but it also gives us more responsibility,” he said. “I think there are too many places that are prohibited.”

Many in the audience criticized the signs able to be displayed by businesses and public places banning concealed carry on their premises.

One man said the signs were the same invitation to criminals as posting on Facebook that one's family is going to be out of town for two weeks.

Though clearly in the minority at the meeting, one woman said she felt intimidated that more people were concealing weapons now and questioned the deep distrust of government she said she associates with passionate gun advocates.

Mark Walsh, campaign director for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, acknowledged that his agency lobbied strongly against the concealed carry law. He said he concluded from the continued criticism of gun owners that they feel any restrictions on guns are excessive.

But Wheeling police Sgt. Paul Hardt said his own first contact with the law was positive.

On a routine traffic stop, he was pleased the driver volunteered his concealed carry permit along with his driver's license. He did this before opening his glove compartment, which contained both his insurance card and his gun.

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