Expectations off target
Six months after the state mailed out the first batch of permits, a little more than 1,000 Champaign County citizens have become licensed to carry a concealed handgun in public.
That's less than 1 percent of the county population.
Statewide, 73,158 permits have been issued and 87,183 applications received — far fewer than the 400,000 Illinois State Police said they expected to receive in 2014 following the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling, striking down the state's longtime ban on concealed-carry.
"It's nowhere near the number predicted," said Bryan Lierman, a concealed-carry instructor near Sidney. "To me, (the 400,000 figure) was terrifying. That's just too much out there all at once.
"I'm glad it worked out the way it did. It's a serious thing."
In late 2013 and early 2014, the line of people signing up to take the required 16 hours of training with many local instructors was out the door. The rush to be among the first — in the last of the 50 states to allow concealed-carry — had several businesses taking names for waiting lists.
"You had the initial surge of cowboys, guys who had been waiting a long, long time for this," Lierman said. "So that big wave came through."
But by the start of summer, sign-ups among beginners slowed considerably. Business has picked back up recently, area instructors say, but much of it is coming from previous students — ones already licensed to carry concealed handguns.
Many students want to work on their skills — such as loading, how to take cover and what to do if the gun jams — said Dean Hazen, a Champaign-area certified instructor. Hazen, a 16-year police veteran, has added level 2 and 3 classes to accommodate nonbeginners.
Lierman said instructor friends working in the Peoria area and around Chicago have reported similarly slow summers. Barring an unexpected surge in the final four months of 2014, that means early permit projections by state police will be way off.
In East Central Illinois, Champaign County has the most permit carriers — 1,038. That's 14th-most statewide, trailing Cook (18,681), Will (4,949), DuPage (4,606), Lake (3,493), Madison (2,656), Kane (2,340), McHenry (2,140), St. Clair (2,107), Winnebago (1,727), Sangamon (1,645), Tazewell (1,553), Peoria (1,491) and Macon (1,050).
An East Central Illinois breakdown of concealed-carry permits, denials and TBAs by area county: