Hey Missouri experts - MO travel allows unlicensed concealed carry in vehicles at 18, yes? Cite handy??
Sheriffs give fresh ammo to the call for concealed carry
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
The last time I wrote about guns, it brought a barrage (of words, not bullets) from an aggrieved fellow in Alabama who mellowed enough in subsequent e-mails to invite me to go shooting with him as something other than a target.
I never made it down there, but I thought of him recently as the prospect of a concealed carry law for Illinois advanced a little.
Concealed carry was the subject that raised his ire last time. He's a lawyer with a pistol on his hip and a strong argument for letting him leave it there. (He's also the kind of guy plugged in enough to know when an obscure Midwestern columnist like me writes on his pet topic. So, hello, again.)
My trigger, excuse the word, for writing on it in 2003 was that Missouri was about to become the 45th state to let ordinary people, uh, pack heat as they say in the movies. Many of us in the Metro East took note because we work, shop and play in Missouri.
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Well, Missouri went ahead with it and as far as I can tell not one of us from Illinois has been shot, justifiably or not, by one of those pistol-packers. Hardly any Missourians have been shot by them either, reconfirming the experience elsewhere that concealed carry seems to be neither a major solution for crime nor a big problem for the law-abiding.
Whoa, you may say. What about all those things you wrote back in 2003? Well, they're still true:
— By the time you realize that deadly force is appropriate, the bad guy very likely has an advantage over you. Remember that virtually every police officer slain on the job was armed and trained in self defense.
— The more you handle your gun, the more likely a child will get hold of it.
— Misuse of a gun, accidentally or deliberately, might cost you your liberty, your home and your bank account.
— Carrying a gun may make you cocky enough to fight when you ought to run
My point, then as now, is that carrying a gun should be an informed decision. I'm not saying that allowing people with permits to carry guns is necessarily bad.
An indication of easing resistance for such legislation came recently from what sure seemed like an unlikely direction: the Illinois Sheriffs Association. But maybe it's not really so unlikely.
As elected officials, sheriffs necessarily keep their fingers near the local pulse. Each of our 102 counties, regardless of size, has one sheriff. Illinois has a lot more rural counties than urban. Guns are widely seen as a means of recreation and protection in rural areas, if regarded as a scourge in the urban. Hence, it's logical to presume that a majority of sheriffs represent pro-gun counties.
That said, two relatively urban sheriffs I know and respect — Mearl Justus in St. Clair County and Robert Hertz in Madison County — have gone along with the endorsement.
Proponents will tell you that there are now only two states — Illinois and Wisconsin — that have no permits for concealed carry. That's true, if a little over-simplified.
For instance, even Wisconsin appears to allow "open carry" of a firearm in plain view, based on the state's lack of a law against it and a court ruling in favor of the concept just last month.
On the other hand, nine states that authorize concealed carry permits are on a "may issue" rather than "shall issue" basis. So in California or New York, for example, you have to make a case to authorities who can (and apparently often do) say no. In "shall issue" states such as Missouri, anyone who meets the listed qualifications is entitled.
(In Missouri, in fact, the law is so open that pretty much any resident over 21 with a clean criminal record can legally carry a loaded gun concealed in a car, even without getting the permit.) [Actually, I think it's 18. Mike S.]
In their present form, the slightly differing Illinois proposals for this legislative session (HB 245 and HB 462) would make us a "shall issue" state that recognizes other states' permit holders, too.
Many concealed carry states honor permits of other states' residents. But it's still complicated. For example, Vermont has no restrictions on carrying firearms, which means no permit process. No permit means no reciprocity, so its residents cannot bring firearms even into concealed carry states. That is, unless they get non-resident permits from a state that issues those, such as Florida. Got that?
The Illinois bills, as is customary, would limit permits to adults who get training and have clean criminal and mental health records.
So does the weight of the sheriffs association tip the scales on the issue? Hardly. But it gives concealed carry proponents some (please excuse the expression) fresh ammunition.
It's difficult to imagine that our lawmakers — still reeling from the Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Sen. Ronald Burris debacles, and desperately trying to plug a multibillion-dollar budget hole — have time for this in 2009. It's a very hot issue that's already waited around for decades.
I guess you could say that adding a hefty tax on concealed carry could help the beleaguered budget. But you could just as easily argue that the nation's most tense economic crisis in modern memory is probably not a politically wise time to be putting more guns on the street.