Police chiefs in Oak Park and La Grange said their departments have carefully vetted dozens of local concealed-carry permit applications, as the first round of state permits hits mailboxes this week.
Eighty-nine Oak Park residents and 75 La Grange residents applied for concealed carry permits as of Feb. 25, according to Illinois State Police. Statewide, about 50,000 people have applied since January. About 5,000 security guards, firearms trainers and others who paid extra to get permits early are expected to start receiving them this week, Illinois State Police officials said.
Under the new law, the state checks applicants' backgrounds before approving permits. The law also gives local police departments discretion to file objections to individual applications up to 30 days after they are filed. Neither the Oak Park nor the La Grange departments have objected to any applications so far, police chiefs said.
The state bars anyone with three gang-related arrests or five other arrests in the last 7 years from getting permits. Applicants also must meet certain requirements regarding past drug and alcohol convictions, and must meet the criteria to obtain a Firearm Owners Identification Card. Applicants are fingerprinted and are required to take a 16-hour training course.
The objection process for local departments allows police to screen applicants based on behavior that might have raised concerns but did not rise to the level of criminal charges, Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley said in an email.
"Generally, we are screening for applicants that have demonstrated a pattern of behavior that indicates that they may be a danger to themselves or others," Tanksley said.
Police investigators in La Grange have been looking for familiar names among the applicant list, including people who have made gun-related threats in the past, La Grange Police Chief Michael Holub said.
So far, no such names have appeared on the list, Holub said. He said he doesn't expect the new law to increase any gun-related confrontations, adding he is more concerned about people carrying weapons illegally.
"Quite frankly, I don't anticipate those kinds of issues because the people who have concealed carry are probably not the ones who will be causing us trouble," he said.
Both the Oak Park and La Grange police departments have been training officers for the new law, and have been advising local businesses, schools and other institutions of its specifics, police officials said. The law allows concealed weapons in some public spaces and in businesses that don't post signs banning them. Concealed guns are banned in government buildings, schools, public parks, hospitals and some other places outlined in the law.
Procedures for transporting armed people to hospitals will not change much with the new law, La Grange Fire Department Chief Bill Bryzgalski said. The fire department oversees emergency medical services.
"In reality, we've been working with this for many years," Bryzgalski said. "We have to be cautious, but it's the same as pulling up on any other scene. We have to make sure the scene is secure."
Ambulances are gun-free zones under the law in the same way most public buildings are, he said. When police are present at the scene of an emergency, they will take custody of weapons, Bryzgalski said. If police are not on the scene, the ambulances have been outfitted with lockboxes to hold the weapons until police can take them, he said.
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