Concealed carry coming to Illinois in January, though students unlikely to notice

By Brittney Nadler

Come the start of second semester, there will be a difference statewide — but not one that students are likely to notice on campus. In January or February, Illinois will start granting concealed carry permits to residents, though firearms will still be prohibited on campus.

Illinois became the last state in the nation to legalize concealed carry when state legislature passed the Concealed Carry Act on July 9, giving the Illinois State Police 180 days to set up a system to review applications for permits.

To obtain a concealed carry permit, citizens must meet a list of requirements, complete an application and complete a 16-hour firearms training course, said University Chief of Police Jeff Christensen. Instructors are already being certified and are holding courses throughout the state. 

Students on campus are not likely to see a change because in order to obtain a concealed carry permit, citizens must be 21 years old, and the University prohibits weapons on campus.

“We don’t (have any safety concerns),” Christensen said. “Our concerns are educating everybody and doing what we need to do in terms of meeting the requirements of the act. Our statute is very much like other states where it’s prohibited on campuses, and it has not been problematic.”

The law does not change the unlawful use of weapons. Instead, it allows people with concealed carry permits to carry firearms, though there are certain exceptions, such as schools, Christensen said. 

“Nothing really changes on campus other than, if you have a concealed carry permit and you’re coming to campus, you need to secure it in your vehicle as prescribed in the act,” he said. “But for example, somebody that is going hunting or target shooting, they’re not covered by that, so you still can’t have any weapons on University property.”

Aleksander Dapkus, senior in LAS, is the president of Illini on Target, a registered student organization that allows students to shoot at a nearby range. He is also a member of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, an organization that has chapters on campuses nationwide to fight for the right to carry a concealed firearm on campus. 

“There’s always the potential for (danger),” Dapkus said. “(Concealed carry) should be allowed on campus mainly for the fact that crime in this area is not completely unheard of. We get Crime Alerts of some pretty bad robberies.”

Dapkus said some campuses do allow concealed carry, and there have not been any issues, mainly due to the age limit. If permit owners break the requirements of the law, their permit will be revoked.

“There’s a ton of rules when it comes to concealed carry, and there’s tons of reasons why the government can take away your license to carry,” Dapkus said. “Even the smallest little slip-up with the law and the right to own a license is taken away. It takes a different type of person that really takes the responsibility of carrying more seriously.”

Elizabeth Ambros, senior in AHS, and Mark Esposito, junior in Engineering, started a concealed carry education business to teach students how to shoot. 

Ambros served six years in the Navy as a combat medic for the Marines, and Esposito became a rifle and pistol expert in the Marines. 

“We wanted to instill the principle of gun safety in our local city here in Champaign,” Ambros said. “We feel a lot of the residents of Illinois are unaware of what the different gun rules are, what owning a gun entails, how guns work. We feel that educating populations is going to be one of our greatest contributions.”

Ambros thinks it is important for students to be educated about firearms regardless of whether they wish to own one or not, because, as evidenced throughout history, the more knowledgeable people are on guns, the safer they will be. 

“There are some people who are physically unable to defend themselves,” Esposito said. “You can have all the martial arts training in the world, but, if you’re a 110-pound female against a 250-pound guy, you’re not defenseless, but I think the gun is a great equalizer in that case.”

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Steffie Drucker contributed to this report.

Brittney can be reached at [email protected]