The classes have been underway for weeks. Police departments have the right to object to applicants they feel shouldn't be granted a permit. But the system for conducting background checks is - in the words of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart - "horrifically unworkable."
"Our legislature came up with some hybrid version that has done nothing but confuse people for starters, and clearly it's going to lead to people who should not have weapons, they're going to have them," Dart said.
The sheriff says he has neither the staff nor budget to carry out the necessary background checks and that the inability to use a national criminal database further compounds the situation. What he says he intends to do is issue a blanket objection to any concealed carry applicant from Cook County who has one or more arrests for gun possession, gang activity or domestic violence within the last seven years.
The ultimate responsibility for conducting background checks, however, rests with state police. Its director says he believes adequate safeguards are in place, and that blanket objections aren't permitted under the new law. If someone applies for a concealed carry permit, and police find red flags, they must file an objection within 30 days, after which the applicant can appeal to a review board set up for that purpose.
Dart said he believes the law - as written - has been set up to fail.
"This clearly puts all local law enforcement on the hook because the populace is going to sit there and say, 'Why didn't you catch this person?' I'm left saying, 'How could we have caught them?' We have no way of looking into any of this," Dart said.
Gun rights advocates who were instrumental in drafting the state's concealed carry legislation say Dart is just doing political bluster, that state police have sufficient criminal background information to do the job. As a barometer of concealed carry interest, state police last week posted a link on their website listing locations where applicants can electronically send in their fingerprints. In less than a week, there've been 1,500 responses.
Concealed carry instructors to apply for licenses
Illinois State Police announced they will open the Firearm Concealed Carry Act application process to certified firearms instructors, giving them access to apply for their concealed carry licenses on Wednesday in advance of the January 5 deadline.
The statute requires that certified instructors be eligible for a concealed carry license. Early access to the application process will provide applicants with an opportunity to obtain their licenses and test the application system. With nearly 2,000 certified firearms instructors currently listed on the ISP Concealed Carry website, officials anticipate that instructor applications will serve as a test for workload capacities. Officials say it is a necessary step to ensure the integrity of a system that is expected to process more than 400,000 applications during the first year.
Instructors can access the ISP Concealed Carry Licensing website on Wednesday to electronically submit a concealed carry license application. Instructions for accessing the site will be emailed to instructors currently registered with the ISP. Instructors may also call the ISP Firearms Services Bureau Customer Service Line at 217-782-7980 with any questions.
The Department's Concealed Carry website can be accessed at http://www.isp.state.il.us/. The ISP said it will continue to regularly update its concealed carry FAQs on the new website with information regarding the Illinois concealed carry process.