Two Downstate lawmakers’ plan to allow people to carry concealed firearms into the Cook County forest preserves is a bad idea, and the Legislature should kill it.
When Illinois drew up a concealed-carry law two years ago, legislators included provisions to keep hidden weapons out of places where they could be exceptionally dangerous, such as bars and schools. Among the spots also included on the off-limits list were the Cook County forest preserves.
There was logic behind that choice. Many of the people who head to the groves, especially in summer, are attending gatherings where liquor is served – perfectly legally – in copious amounts. Adding guns to heavy drinking is a dangerous equation.
Besides hosting summer picnics, the forest preserves are a place to quietly experience nature and escape the pressures of urban living. You don’t need a gun to do that.
Moreover, trying to chip away at the protections in the concealed-carry law is another step toward the normalization of having guns around in every day life, like chewing bubble gum on a bus. But guns ain’t bubble gum.
The companion bills that would allow guns into the forest preserves were introduced by state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, and state Rep. Thomas Bennett, R-Gibson City. McCarter told the Daily Herald, “Allowing those who the state has trained to carry a gun will only provide safety.”
Not quite. Because of opposition by gun-rights groups, there is no central national tally on incidents involving concealed carry users. But after researching just those cases reported in the news media since 2007, the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center counted 722 deaths nationwide caused by concealed carry holders. Only 16 were ruled to be self-defense, fewer than the 17 cases in which law enforcement officers were shot.
Because we lack central reporting, those numbers are far from definitive, but they do refute the argument that guns “only provide safety.” Whatever McCarter and Bennett seem to think, the forest preserves have a good safety record. If the legislators want to rewrite the law, which was the product of long and thoughtful negotiations, the burden of proof is on them to show the law as written needs to be changed. They haven’t met that test.