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Judge: Federal law does not entitle retired corrections officers to obtain concealed carry permits

Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Cook County Record
by Jonathan Bilyk

Correctional officers in Illinois are not entitled to permits to carry concealed firearms under federal law, a Chicago federal judge has ruled, saying the federal law does not compel the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, or any other county or state correctional agency, to classify the corrections officers as law enforcement officers.

On Jan. 26, U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman holstered the class action lawsuit brought by a group of retired Cook County and DuPage County correctional officers, who had alleged Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and the state board responsible for issuing concealed carry permits to retired police officers violated their constitutional rights and federal law in refusing to grant them the permits.

The lawsuit landed in federal court in 2015, when plaintiffs William Henrichs, Myron Alexander, Robert Peluso, Joseph Rizzo and Jeffrey Spicer first leveled their accusations that Dart and the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board had violated the Constitution and the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, which they argued gave them the right, as sworn sheriff’s deputies, to permits entitling them to carry concealed firearms in any state in the U.S.

The plaintiffs were represented in the action by attorney Lucy Kirschinger, of Chicago. According to the court documents, all of the plaintiffs but Spicer had retired with at least 10 years’ service at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Spicer had served for at least 10 years with the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office.

The plaintiffs alleged they were all denied the concealed carry permits by the Illinois state board, which said, as correctional officers, their service “does not meet the definition of law enforcement under Illinois law and administrative rules,” as addressed in the Illinois Retired Officer Concealed Carry program (IROCC).

The plaintiffs alleged the board’s decision deprived them of their property rights, and denied them equal protection, as it arbitrarily treated them differently from other sheriff’s deputies who qualified under the IROCC program.

They asked the court to declare them eligible for the concealed carry permits under the federal LEOSA law.

Feinerman, however, sided with sheriff’s office and the state board, saying nothing in the federal law required state and local agencies to certify correctional officers as law enforcement officers who are eligible for the LEOSA concealed carry permits.

The judge noted the LEOSA law “does not give concealed carry rights to any individual who satisfies its definition of ‘qualified retired law enforcement officer.’” Rather, the judge said, the decision of who is a qualified law enforcement officer falls to state and local agencies, on whom the law places the responsibility of issuing photo identification declaring a retired police officer’s eligibility for concealed carry under LEOSA.

This means, if a county or state agency refuses to recognize a correctional officer as a “qualified law enforcement officer,” it doesn’t matter that the text of the LEOSA law may find differently, the judge said.

“Under LEOSA, then, if a retired officer does not have an identification issued by the officer’s former agency, then the officer has no concealed carry rights under LEOSA, even if she is a ‘qualified retired law enforcement officer’ under LEOSA,” Feinerman said.

The judge noted the retired correctional officers retained their rights under Illinois law to pursue a concealed carry permit as private citizens.

Dart was represented in the action by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, while the state board was defended by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

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