Illinois remains the only the state that doesn’t allow concealed-carry of firearms. Supporters of the movement are hopeful lawmakers in Springfield will eventually approve such a law. In the meantime, Illinois residents wanting a permit can still apply for one. But there’s a catch.
On a Friday evening at a Holiday Inn near Rockford, Shane Conway is preparing for a class in a small conference room.
Conway is a chief instructor with the Equip-2-Conceal company. This class is a requirement for someone wanting to apply for a concealed-carry permit issued by the state of Utah. If you’re asking what that has to do with Illinois, residents across the country can apply for Utah’s permit, which is good in more than 30 states. Of course, it can’t be used in Illinois, but it allows Illinois residents to carry a concealed firearm when they travel to various states.
Conway, who is certified by the state of Utah, also teaches classes in Wisconsin, which recently enacted a concealed-carry law. He says turnout at these classes can vary.
“It depends on the day. On a Sunday, not many people are gonna show up because football games are on. But on Saturday’s, a lot of times it’s a pretty good turnout, ” Conway said.
On this evening, the turnout is pretty low. Five people registered, but only three showed up. Two of the participants are Eric and Emily Aspland of Rockton. Emily says she and her husband are hunting enthusiasts who travel to Montana a lot.
Eric Aspland says having the Utah permit is really about feeling the need for personal protection on the way to Montana.
“Traveling is the worst part about not having any find of weapons with ya. Rest areas are, kinda, not a safe place, ” Eric Aspland said.
While the turnout might be low at the class the Asplands are attending, others say demand is out there in Illinois for the Utah permit.
G.A.T. Guns in East Dundee offers the class for the Utah permit and one for Florida’s concealed carry permit, which also covers many states. Vice President Greg Tropino Junior says these classes are by far their most popular.
“Even if it’s introductory pistol courses, even if it’s more advanced holster draw, it doesn’t seem to matter what it is, we’ve gotten the most overall volume from inception to now for the concealed-carry classes,” Tropino said.
Tropino says he was at first reluctant to offer the classes, figuring they wouldn’t attract a lot of people. But he says it didn’t take too long to figure out that there was a market.
“First class wound up getting ten people in, then the next class was thirty, and all the classes after that started getting fifty, sixty, even seventy people per class,” Tropino said.
Tropino says there are cases of people wanting the permit for travel purposes. But he suspects most of the time, individuals who apply don’t even utilize the permits. He says they just want something they can’t get through their own state government.
“A lot of its just to satisfy their own personal desire to have it to some form, or at least have the capability of having it,” Tropino said.
Downstate lawmakers have tried several times to get a concealed-carry law passed in Illinois. Previous efforts have been blocked by Chicago Democrats, who feel that concealed carry would lead to more violence. While he supports the practice, Tropino says he thinks the movement has reached its peak in terms of momentum, at least for now.
However, applicants like Eric Aspland hope the demand for out-of-state permits will capture the attention of policy-makers.
“I think this helps push the state along to maybe legalize it in Illinois, ” Aspland said.
A key lawmaker behind the concealed-carry movement says right now, there are no such plans to introduce a measure during the fall veto session. He says they’re awaiting a decision in a lawsuit against the state. In the meantime, a permit from elsewhere in the country will have to do for concealed –carry backers in Illinois.