A trickle of concealed-carry permits will turn into a flood in the coming months.
The time for posturing and speculation is over: The experiment is underway.
The Illinois State Police last week started mailing concealed-carry permits to gun owners throughout the state. Some 5,000 applications have been approved, and more are in the pipeline. By the time this process is complete, authorities estimate that between 300,000 and 400,000 Illinois citizens will be authorized to carry a concealed weapon.
Some may regard this process, authorized by legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly, as a bold experiment that carries huge risks. Even those who believe fervently in concealed-carry, if they are the least bit circumspect, are engaged in watchful waiting.
But even though this concept is a first for Illinois, it's old hat throughout the rest of the country.
Illinois was the last state to approve some form of concealed-carry. Forty-nine other states have experience with this idea, and, so far at least, it has not proven to be a major, or even a minor, problem.
The reason is that those who apply for and receive a concealed-carry permit are honest, law-abiding citizens who conduct themselves in a respectful manner. Those who oppose concealed-carry, believing the law will create a Dodge City mentality, find themselves in the uncomfortable position of expecting that responsible people will suddenly start acting in an irresponsible manner.
Guns in the wrong hands are a huge issue in our society. But experience has shown, at least in other states, that people who qualify for a concealed-carry permit are not the problem.
They've passed criminal background checks, do not have a history of mental illness and follow the rules.
Of course, they now bear a special responsibility to conduct themselves in an especially dutiful fashion. Having been trained on the use of firearms and being aware of firearms' power for good or ill, these new concealed-carry citizens represent the vanguard of an idea that makes many Illinoisans understandably uncomfortable.