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Vetting of concealed-carry applicants too weak to trust

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times
by Editorial

How safe does this make you feel? Twelve people certified as concealed carry trainers under Illinois’ new gun law have such extensive criminal backgrounds that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart wants them banned from carrying hidden firearms altogether. One of them is the subject of an order of protection, and police say another threatened to kill a law enforcement officer.

That’s just part of the problem with the new law, approved by the Legislature last summer. There’s no longer any debate that concealed carry is the law of the land, but there’s an excellent argument that it is being carried out in an excessively permissive manner. Combing through a list of 9,349 Cook County residents who have applied since Jan. 5 for five-year concealed carry permits , Sheriff Dart’s office found 300 applicants who have records for domestic violence, gang activity, gun crimes, sex crimes, burglary and other criminal activity. All but five of those applicants were cleared for concealed carry by the Illinois State Police, however, and the grounds for rejection for the five might have been something as benign as not including payment.

We see two problems here. The first is that Dart’s office is the source of most of the objections filed statewide, which suggests that other sheriffs and municipal police departments — who were provided no extra funding to pay for criminal background checks — are failing to dig as deeply as Dart into the background of people applying for concealed carry permits.

The second problem is that even Dart can’t do a truly thorough job because he is prohibited from checking a police database called the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System, the nation’s most comprehensive listing of arrest records. According to the State Police, that’s because LEADS is to be used only for criminal justice purposes, and the FBI considers concealed carry permits to be an administrative matter.

No wonder Dart calls the concealed carry law “horrifically unworkable.”

As drawn up by lawmakers under pressure from a federal appeals court, the concealed carry law allows people with a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification Card to apply for a license to carry loaded concealed guns. The applications go to the State Police, who check about a dozen databases to screen out applicants who are felons, or who in the past seven years have had five or more arrests or at least three arrests for gang-related offenses. Also nixed are people with at least two DUI convictions or a conviction for a violent crime.



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