Effingham Daily News
State Rep. David Reis would be the first to tell that legislation allowing Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons is not perfect.
"This wasn't a bill we would have written, but it's a bill we could get passed," said Reis, R-Ste. Marie.
More than 125 people attended an informational meeting on the "concealed carry" law Thursday evening at the Effingham County Sportsmen's Club near Lake Sara. Reis and fellow state Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem, conducted the meeting to educate interested members of the public about a multifaceted law that, Reis said, still faces potential amendments from the anti-gun lobby in the General Assembly.
Reis emphasized there were people from both political parties who favored concealed carry.
"It's not Republican versus Democrat. It's urban versus rural," Reis said.
Even though the law stipulates that Illinois residents must be able to register for a concealed carry permit by Jan. 5, 2014, neither Reis nor IllinoisCarry.com spokeswoman Valinda Rowe have any illusions the fight is over.
"They (gun opponents) will keep coming at us," Reis said. "We will have to be vigilant."
Rowe, who lives in the tiny White County village of Enfield, said she hopes a sustained lobbying effort will keep legislators from watering down the bill any further.
"We want to make sure any changes are in our favor," Rowe said. "It's not a good law yet, but it's law.
"We will need your voices to be heard."
Rowe said one example of something that needs to be changed is the part of the bill that mandates that all concealed carry applications be made online.
"We need to be able to fill out a form and send in a check," she said. "Making everything online is just an extra added burden."
Illinois State Police began last month certifying firearms instructors to handle the expected influx of those seeking concealed carry permits, which will cost $150 for five years.
Carbondale police officer Dave Kemp, who operates a gun range and training center near Marion on the side, said just because a person pays $150 for the concealed carry license doesn't mean they should be using a gun.
Kemp said those seeking to qualify for a concealed carry permit must score 210 out of a possible 300, or 70 percent, on a range test.
"Most people will be able to make that score after their training," Kemp said. The law mandates 16 hours of training before a concealed carry permit can be issued.
Kemp warned that firearms training from decades ago doesn't mean one can still accurately fire a weapon.
"Don't think that just because you have a Smith & Wesson by your bed that you're a good shooter," he said. "It's a perishable skill."
Kemp had one final message for the group.
"Don't be naive enough to think a gun is the solution to everything," he said. "It's very easy to talk, but you are getting a permit for a deadly weapon.
"This isn't the magic weapon that would solve everybody's problems," Kemp said, noting he trained people on how to avoid situations that might lead to gunfire.
Sportsman's Club President Lyle Kruger said his club hosted the meeting to clear up misinformation about the new law.
"This way, we heard it from the horse's mouth," Kruger said. "It also gave people a chance to visit the club who normally wouldn't."
Some people drove more than 100 miles to attend Thursday's gathering. Gun range owner Ronald Beatty from Gibson City said he attended Thursday's meeting in an effort to learn more about the new law. In fact, Beatty said, he would like representatives from his area to host similar gatherings.
Beatty said it didn't matter whether one chose to carry a weapon for the concealed carry law to be worthwhile.
"Am I going to be carrying? Maybe not. But the criminal won't know that," he said. "We've operated with a gun-free zone for so long that we've created a criminal-rich environment."
More information on concealed carry regulations are available on either Reis or Cavaletto's websites, or on the Illinois State Police website.