BELLEVILLE — Illinois may be on the verge of issuing permits that allow people to carry concealed firearms.
But on Saturday, about 160 people attended a class in Belleville that will allow them to get concealed-carry permits issued by Utah.
Depending on the final language in Illinois' concealed-carry law -- if one does eventually get approved by the state legislature -- the Utah permits might not ever do a lick of good in Illinois for an Illinois resident.
The Utah permits are valid, however, in 31 states, including every state around Illinois, but not in Illinois. So they'd be valuable to someone who travels outside Illinois for business or pleasure. And there's wording in Illinois' proposed concealed-carry law that would make any state's permit valid in Illinois for one year.
Class participants included George Holtzscher, of Glen Carbon, a 78-year-old clinical audiologist who said he travels often for vacations and work. He said the Utah permit "covers several states, and I'm never certain what state I'm going to be going through."
Holtzscher said he wants a permit for personal safety.
"I had a couple occasions where things got a little iffy," he said.
Kristen Bossler, a 38-year-old business analyst from O'Fallon, said she works in Missouri, and also sometimes travels out-of-state with her children. She grew up around guns.
"I own a gun and I shoot, and I'm interested in carrying it with me," she said. "It's for protection that I want a conceal-and-carry permit."
Bossler said she was interested in getting a permit from another state because Illinois "is going to take forever before they actually decide to do it. I don't want to wait for Illinois."
A company called Firearms Safety Group, based in Elmhurst, offered the four-hour class Saturday, which was held at Southwestern Illinois College. The owner, Casey Fuller, is certified to teach the Utah class, and offers it at locations across the state. The class fee is $100, and the cost of the permit itself is $51.
The class was offered twice Saturday: once from 8 a.m. to noon and once from 1-5 p.m.
Fuller emphasized a number of times that the Utah permit is not valid in Illinois, and might not ever be.
At the start of the class he asked participants, "Everybody knows this permit's not good in the state of Illinois, right? I just want to make sure everybody's clear on that."
The Illinois House gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a concealed-carry bill, HB 1155.
One clause states: "Any Illinois resident who has a license or permit to carry a handgun issued by another state shall be able to carry a handgun in accordance with this Act using that license for 365 days following the effective date of this Act."
Fuller said that provision would be a benefit to anyone having a Utah permit, especially if Illinois has an initial backlog of permit-seekers.
Whether Illinois would honor a Utah permit beyond that is unclear. The issue of reciprocity -- honoring others states' permits -- isn't completely spelled out in the pending bill.
One clause in the bill states that Illinois would "recognize any other state's license or permit whose requirements to obtain a license or permit is substantially similar" to that of Illinois. According to the bill, those states would include, "but are not limited to," Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.
Some local shootings ranges have been offering classes that allow participants to obtain a Florida concealed-carry license, which is valid in several states. In December, the Rampart Range in Pocahontas as well as Metro Shooting Supplies in Belleville reported they were seeing big demand for their Florida classes.
Fuller said even if Illinois doesn't end up honoring Utah permits, a permit from there would be valuable to someone who travels. Fuller said he teaches a class in Indiana, and even though Indiana issues concealed-carry permits, some Indiana residents choose to also get a Utah permit because it's valid in more states than Indiana's.
Mascoutah resident Buck Horine, who took the class Saturday, said he hopes the Utah permit eventually will be valid in Illinois.
"It's good in 31 other states. It'll be good in Illinois," he said.
Why does Horine want to carry a gun?
"Why does a cop want to carry a gun?" he said. "Good for shooting criminals and protecting yourself."
Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2511.