New stats: United Center couldn't seat all Cook County residents with concealed-carry permits

SHARE New stats: United Center couldn't seat all Cook County residents with concealed-carry permits

Conventioneer picks up a gun at a NRA convention in 2013. | File photo

The United Center couldn’t seat everyone who can now legally carry a concealed gun in Cook County, according to the latest figures released Friday.

While the arena has a capacity of about 23,500 concertgoers, 23,921 Cook County residents received permits to carry hidden firearms since the state began the licensing process in January 2014. Those permits represent about a fourth of the statewide total of almost 92,000 permits.

The state’s licensing board denied the applications of about 1,150 Cook County residents, about 5 percent of the total number of applications in the county. Across Illinois, about 2,400 permit applications were denied, less than 3 percent of the statewide total.

The National Rifle Association, which pushed for the right to carry concealed weapons in Illinois, isn’t surprised by the totals, NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said

The fact that only 2.6 percent of the statewide applications were rejected “shows that the people exercising their Second Amendment rights under the new law are law-abiding citizens,” Baker added.

She said she doesn’t see a spike in applications in 2015 in part because of the “prohibitive fees” involved in getting a permit in Illinois.

Under the law, police agencies may object to the applications of people they believe could pose a danger to the community or themselves because of mental illness or other problems in their backgrounds, including arrest records.

Almost 3,400 of those objections were lodged in 2014, according to the state police.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office objected to thousands of applications. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last year that one of those objections involved the application of a Latin Kings gang leader whose criminal background included 12 arrests but no convictions.

The sheriff’s office submitted almost 2,200 objections to the state license board, according to Ben Breit, a spokesman for Sheriff Tom Dart. Eighteen applicants had murder arrests in their backgrounds. More than 800 applicants were arrested for domestic violence, and nearly 700 for illegal gun possession, he said.

It’s unclear how many of those sheriff’s objections resulted in applications being rejected by the state.

Last year, the state was hit with lawsuits from people upset that their applications were denied without explanation.

In July, the state responded to the litigation with emergency rules requiring the state licensing board to notify applications about the reasons for objections — and which law enforcement agency made them. Applicants are now given 10 days to contest a rejection.

Also Friday, the Illinois State Police disclosed that about 50 permits held by Cook County residents were revoked after they were granted. About 175 permits were revoked statewide.

In addition, the state revoked the licenses of about 150 instructors last year. Most of those revocations occurred during two months, June and August. Trainers must undergo the same background check as anyone who applies for a permit. They also must hold a certification to teach people about firearms.

State lawmakers passed the Firearm Concealed Carry Act in 2013 after the state’s ban on carrying concealed firearms was deemed unconstitutional in December 2012. Illinois became the last state to allow concealed carry of firearms by citizens.

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