Concealed carry applications fall far short of projections

Even though the Chicago area accounts for most of the population in Illinois, fewer than half the applications to legally carry a concealed weapon have come from Chicago and the suburbs.

Illinois received 91,651 applications to carry in 2014, according to a report the Illinois State Police released Friday.

The report says 45,312 applications came from Chicago and the collar counties, and state police denied permits to 2,359 applicants.

That number is far short of what was projected, says Illinois State Police Sgt. Jose DeJesus. The state police based their projection on the number of people who already own guns, and expected to received four times more applications than they did.

Permits to carry a concealed firearm were initially in high demand, but as 2014 wore on, applications declined throughout the state and all suburban counties.

Cook County accounts for the most active concealed carry permits with 23,921. The report doesn't distinguish suburban Cook County from Chicago. Will County follows with 6,134 active concealed carry applications. DuPage falls third in the suburbs with 5,577. Lake County saw 4,252 active concealed carry applications in 2014, followed by Kane County with 2,873. McHenry County rounds out the suburban list with 2,555 applications.

Along with the decline in applications, some instructors have also seen a decrease in people taking the required 16-hour safety class.

Private concealed carry instructor Edwin Rodriguez, a Wheaton resident who served four years in the Navy, has been shooting for more than 30 years. He says as a private instructor, he's seen a decline in the number of students taking his safety class.

"It's kind of tapered. I don't advertise, and for the most part it's just kind of tapering down," Rodriguez said.

Despite that trend, NRA instructor Kevin Swan, a Schaumburg resident, says he has seen an increase in the number of students taking the concealed carry class.

"For me, my numbers have been improving throughout the year, but there was a big surge right at the beginning of last year," said Swan, who instructs with The Art of Shooting.

Some suburban lawmakers last year tried altering the legislation before it had time to play out. Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican, sought to impose more stringent consequences for gun safety instructors who pass students who are not qualified.

But Rodriguez says he isn't afraid to fail students.

"I like to see people out there who are qualified," Rodriguez said.

Cook County rejected 4.8 percent of concealed carry permit applications, and DuPage rejected 3.7 percent. Illinois State Police rejected 3.4 percent of Will County applications and 2.1 percent from Lake County. Both Kane County and McHenry County saw less than 2 percent of applications denied at a rate of 1.5 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. Statewide, 2.6 percent of applications were rejected.

"There are numerous reasons why an applicant may be denied a concealed carry license," said DeJesus, "including not meeting all of the requirements, having a disqualifying criminal history, or even not submitting a complete application."

Illinois concealed carry applicants must be 21, already possess a FOID card, undergo a background check and pay a $150 application fee.

Based on numbers from the second half of 2014, DeJesus says the state police expect to receive about 4,000 applications per month in 2015.

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