HOOPESTON — About 40 Vermilion County area residents took a five-hour class Saturday to obtain a Utah conceal-carry permit, hoping that Illinois will soon join all the other states that allow their citizens to carry a handgun in public.
The Utah permit is recognized in 35 states, but not Illinois, the only state with no conceal-carry law.
Some taking the class hope that if Illinois gets a conceal-carry law, the Utah permit will be valid here, as it is in Indiana and Wisconsin, or that already having a Utah permit will allow them to get an Illinois permit more quickly or easily. And some just want the ability to carry a handgun when they travel to the states where the Utah permit is recognized, like Denise Scharlach and Mary Bushong, two of several women in Saturday's class at the American Legion in Hoopeston.
Scharlach said as a female, she feels more vulnerable when traveling alone, because women can be targeted more, especially when carrying a purse. But even when the whole family travels together in unfamiliar places, something could happen, she said. Bushong said being able to carry a gun when traveling would give her more of a sense of security, especially when her kids are with her.
But they're both hopeful that Illinois does enact its own conceal-carry law, so they can carry handguns. But they both said they wouldn't conceal carry all the time, only in certain situations, and would feel more comfortable carrying a handgun in a purse rather than on them in a holster.
In December, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Illinois' ban on carrying concealed handguns in public and ordered the state Legislature to create a concealed carry law. Since that decision, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has formally asked that the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals review that ruling.
In the meantime, residents in Vermilion and Iroquois counties are taking advantage of the Utah conceal-carry permit classes being offered by instructor Paul Slavin of Auburn, Ind., who coordinated and taught Saturday's class. Slavin held the class a week ago at the American Legion in Rossville, where about 50 attended, he said. The Utah permit classes are being offered in other parts of the state as well.
Slavin, who's also a certified National Rifle Association instructor, recently moved to Indiana from Utah and has been certified to teach that state's required conceal-carry class for more than two years. He's also certified to teach conceal-carry classes for permits in other states, including Florida, Arizona and Michigan. But Slavin said he teaches the Utah permit the most, because it's so widely respected by law enforcement and gun groups and is the most inexpensive to maintain. He said renewal costs are only $25 every five years. Slavin charges $125 per person for the Utah permit class and $75 for veterans. At the end of the classes, Slavin provides everything the participants need, including paperwork, fingerprinting and identification pictures, to submit to Utah to get their permits.
Slavin said other than being able to carry in other states, the Utah permit is advantageous to Illinois residents for other reasons. He said when Illinois does create a conceal-carry law, it could recognize the Utah permit as other states do, but also, the state may decide its own permit will be valid in Illinois only. So, an Illinois resident would need another permit to conceal carry in other states. "It's a very good tool," he said.
Although Utah requires the five-hour class, the instruction does not include firing a handgun. For the first half of the class, Slavin teaches gun safety in all aspects and covers pertinent state laws in the latter part before completing the fingerprinting and other documentation. "This is what I want you to take away from this class is safety, safety, safety," said Slavin, who encouraged the participants to obey the laws of each state, including Illinois with its no conceal-carry ban.
Slavin also encouraged the participants to call their state legislators and tell them they want conceal carry in Illinois.
Slavin said he supports the Second Amendment and a citizen's right to own firearms, but he's also a strong advocate for laws prohibiting anyone with a felony or persons treated for mental illness from having firearms, and he's an advocate of training for those who can legally own firearms. He said firearm owners, in general, have gotten away from the training aspect.
"People need to know when to keep it holstered and be a good witness," he said. "There's a fine line between reasonable and non-reasonable force, and people do not understand that fine line and instead of defending themselves, they become the initial aggressor."