Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2012, 10:06 pm

Area gun rights advocates glad for court ruling

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By Stephen Elliott,

Area gun rights' advocates said Tuesday's federal appeals decision striking down Illinois' ban on carrying concealed weapons is a victory for firearms owners.

Gun rights advocates argued Illinois' ban violates the Second Amendment.Illinois is the only state without some form of a concealed carry law.

The federal court action Tuesday gives state lawmakers 180 days to write a law that legalizes concealed carry.

"What the state can't continue is to deny on a blanket basis the right to carry," said Mark Westrom, owner of ArmaLite, a Geneseo-based firearms company."One of the interesting things they haven't talked about is the success of concealed carry in other states.

"I don't believe it's (concealed carry) as much an issue in the state as it seems," he said."Essentially, it's a Chicago area issue. The downstate politicians support it by a majority not quite strong enough to overcome a veto.

"There are signs, even in the Chicago area, the politicians are shifting their opinion."

Quad-Cities area legislators support concealed carry.

"What the court is saying is law-abiding citizens have a right to self-defense with firearms outside of their homes," said state Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova. "It's a great day for law-abiding citizens in Illinois."

StateRep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, said opponents fear concealed carry will turn the state into the "Wild West."

"I don't know of any instances where it will be a Wild West situation," he said, noting there could be many restrictions on the bill.

Henry County State's Attorney Terry Patton, a supporter of concealed carry, said he had not had a chance Tuesday afternoon to read the court decision. He said the ruling didn't surprise him.

"It's hard to argue how a total ban on concealed carry can be constitutional," he said.

"That doesn't mean, all of a sudden, Illinois is going to pass a law that lets everybody carry a concealed weapon everywhere they go," Mr. Patton said. "Look at other states: Some make it very easy to get a concealed carry permit. Others make it very hard."

Mr. Patton also wants restrictions and requirements for concealed carry.

"I think it's important people pass a class, both on gun safety and on the use of force -- when do you actually use your guns and when you don't," he said. "And, also, having a shooting proficiency test.If you can't hit what you're aiming at, you should be outlawed from carrying a gun."

Gov. Pat Quinn has vowed to veto legislation allowing concealed-carry for handguns.East Moline Police Chief Victor Moreno has raised concerns on such a law. In 2009, Chief Moreno said a concealed-carry law would alter how police and the public interact.

Rock Island County Sheriff Jeff Boyd, however, supports such a law.

"My only concern is they (legislators) craft a good law that takes into consideration everything," he said.

"It will probably fall upon local jurisdictions, in particular sheriff's offices, to be responsible for those permits," Sheriff Boyd said."We'll take it very seriously. It will be labor intensive and personnel intensive."

With Illinois being the last state to enact such a law, Sheriff Boyd said lawmakers have plenty of models from other state's laws.

"We should pick and choose from all the successes and failures, and find a good law to follow," he said.

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