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Photo by Diane Cox
Residents sign in Tuesday, Dec. 8, before a concealed carry town hall meeting at the Alton-Wood River Sportsmen’s Club.
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Photo by Diane Cox
State Rep. Dan Beiser addresses a crowd of more than 120 people.
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Photo by Diane Cox
State Sen. Bill Haine answers questions about concealed carry laws.
GODFREY — Author Robert A. Heinlein was known for saying “an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”
With mass shootings across the country, the Second Amendment continuously comes under fire.
On Dec. 4, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. offered free concealed carry courses to students to urge them to carry firearms on campus legally at the nation’s largest Christian university to counter any possible armed attacks. State Sen. William Haine (D-Alton) agrees Falwell’s idea might make college institutions less of a target.
“Considering the day and age and the current problems, I feel Falwell’s idea to be a reasonable approach,” Haine said. “A private university would have to change their own policies to allow for that to occur. It’s sad to think that is what we are coming to.”
Haine and state Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton) invited the public to a town hall meeting Tuesday at the Alton-Wood River Sportsmen’s Club to discuss concealed carry laws and concerns. Speakers included Todd Vandermyde of the National Rifle Association and Richard Pearson of the Illinois State Rifle Association. Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan and State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons attended to show their support of concealed carry rights in Illinois.
“We want to keep an open dialogue with those who have or are considering obtaining a concealed carry license,” Beiser said. “This meeting gave citizens an update on where things are moving as concealed carry is further implemented and more years get under our belt.”
Gibbons, a proponent for the concealed carry law, talked about why an armed society hits close to home for him.
“My wife is a police officer,” Gibbons said. “She is out there every night working to protect the community and she’ll be the first to tell you that a well-armed, law-abiding citizen is her best friend. It took a court to force the state of Illinois to change the law and enshrine our right to be armed back into the statutes.”
More than 120 people attended the town hall meeting and presented questions to Vandermyde and Pearson as well as Scott Bryant of the Illinois Federation for Outdoor Resources. One of Bryant’s concerns was the lack of young people in attendance.
“This is part of our problem in Illinois,” Bryant said. “We have to start engaging younger generations and they need to become more involved with defending their rights. IFOR holds a youth camp every year and they enjoy being able to hunt and shoot. We need to teach them at a younger age that they will also have to learn to stand up in the future.”
Meeting for more than two hours, citizens expressed their concerns on prohibited carry zones, due process clauses, law enforcement objection processes and three-day waiting periods for concealed carry permit holders.
“People are hungry for information,” Vandermyde said. “We want to keep things clarified as much as possible as the laws change. As proponents of the law, communication is important with citizens so we know what is important to them and to keep them within the legal ramifications of the law. The one fact that always exists: people like those in attendance at this meeting are the law-abiding citizens; it’s the criminals that don’t follow the laws.”
Concealed carry instructor for Trigger Talent Mark Maggos said his main concern as an instructor is the lack of reciprocity among states.
“An Illinois citizen with a concealed carry permit can carry in 25 other states across the country,” Maggos said. “They will recognize our permit. The state of Illinois does not recognized permits from any other state. The law-abiding citizens from other states cannot carry here.”
For Vandermyde, the concealed carry process has come a long way in Illinois, but he’s constantly working on ways to make it better.
“We need to fix the due process clauses within the carry law,” Vandermyde said. “We also need to look closer into law enforcement agencies that may be abusing the objection process and we would also like to see Illinois legalize suppressors.”
Haine was the author of Senate Bill 803 to legalize suppressors for hunters who want to take wildlife with the use of a silencer.
For Marcia Wheeler of Godfrey, the most important change she wants to see is the abolition of no-carry zones.
“All mass shootings are taking place at locations where guns are prohibited,” Wheeler said. “Churches, schools, places of business that all have a no-carry sign on their front door. Criminals are not going to wait for a citizen to go back out to their car to retrieve their legal handgun to protect themselves.”
Information about the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act is available at advnews.link/1OR5ub8.
Anyone interested in attending a concealed carry course at the Alton-Wood River Sportsmen’s Club can visit www.triggertalent.com to register.