More than 1,600 from metro-east seek concealed-carry permits

News-DemocratJanuary 16, 2014 

More than 1,600 people in the metro-east have applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Illinois.

As of Thursday, 615 people from St. Clair County and 748 people from Madison County had applied, according to the Illinois State Police.

Other counties in the region -- Bond, Clinton, Washington, Randolph and Monroe -- have each had fewer than 100 applicants so far. The total number of applications for those counties, along with St. Clair and Madison, was 1,687 as of Monday.

More than 23,000 Illinoisans have applied for a concealed-carry permit since the state began accepting applications. About 5,300 of those have come from the state's largest county, Cook.

The counties with the next-highest numbers of applications, as of early this week, are Will with 1,759, DuPage with 1,589 and Lake with 1,164 -- all counties in the Chicago area.

While Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, a critic of concealed-carry, has complained about not being able to keep up with the volume of applications, that hasn't been the case in the metro-east.

Madison County Sheriff Robert Hertz said his deputies have reviewed the names of about 200 applicants so far.

"I would have anticipated more than a couple hundred at this point," Hertz said. "I don't know if they're sitting on more that are coming my way, or if that's it, but I would have anticipated more people applying, and us getting deluged with these."

Hertz said he has asked his detective division to go over the names of applicants.

"It's been manageable," he said. "If it was 2,000, that would have been a bit more cumbersome. But right now, we're able to keep our heads above water on this."

On Wednesday, St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said his department had not received a single applicant's name from ISP for review.

"We have not gotten anything from the state," Watson said. "I've got some people working on why we haven't."

ISP spokeswoman Monique Bond, however, said the state doesn't send names to local sheriffs and police chiefs. Instead, local police have access to a police-only ISP web portal containing the names.

"Each law enforcement agency logs into the portal to access their jurisdiction," Bond said. "Letters were sent to all law enforcement executives providing instructions, logins and passwords. Other counties are making objections, therefore they are following the instructions and using their password and login."

On Thursday, Watson said his department had learned how to access the web portal.

"The state never contacted us, and we finally figured out how to do this," Watson said. "And I've been talking with other departments around the county who didn't know anything about this portal."

Bond said in addition to sending letters, ISP has used an electronic police messaging system to inform local departments about how to object to concealed-carry applications.

Bond said an applicant's name is immediately entered into the portal.

Illinois State Police personnel handle the application process, but under the law, a local sheriff or police chief can object to a person's application. Local sheriffs and police have a 30-day window to make such an objection.

Watson on Thursday said his deputies had reviewed each of the 615 applicants from St. Clair County, and found none for which his department will file an objection.

Hertz said his department has made only one objection to an application, out of about 200 that his detectives have reviewed so far. Hertz said the applicant had a prior arrest.

"It was an arrest for a crimes-against-person deal, an assault situation. I'm not aware of the specifics, but I do know we've got a documented arrest on the individual, that we feel should be shared with the State Police before they make the final determination," Hertz said.

The purpose of the review by local police agencies is to ferret out applicants who might meet the state standards but have something in their backgrounds that could render their applications too risky to approve.

Watson said those would include people who are "kind of a loose screw" but have no criminal record.

"You've got to remember, there are certain things that aren't on a rap sheet. There are certain things we know about people that are not on paper," he said.

Hertz said he could see his department objecting to an applicant who displays "argumentative behavior" or "reflects something bizarre or concerning" to police.

"I've told my people that, when in doubt, forward the information to the State Police," Hertz said.

Hertz said a permit holder eventually will do something that draws the attention of the media and critics. "So we know we're under the microscope," he said.

Watson said some sheriffs also are concerned, however, about possible litigation from applicants who are turned down.

"If we need to object to it, we're going to object, whether we get litigated or not," Watson said. "This is a public safety thing."

1,000 APPLICATIONS PER DAY

Statewide, the Illinois State Police has been receiving about 1,000 applications per day for concealed-carry permits.

Bond said that while more than 16,000 applicants have cleared the first hurdle in the application process, the detailed checks are just beginning. She said before anyone receives final approval, the agency will have examined as many as a dozen criminal databases.

"The process is thorough, and the background checks are complete," she said.

Illinois State Police officials insist a full state review will assure that permits don't land in the hands of those who shouldn't have them. And with 90 days to do the job after the 30-day window closes for local law enforcement agencies to make their objections, the agency has far more time than its counterparts in some other states, including Pennsylvania, where law enforcement has 45 days to investigate, and Wisconsin, where the state has 21 days.

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 239-2511. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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