Concealed-Carry Now Legal In Illinois? Madison County's Top Prosecutor Tom Gibbons Says Yes

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Is it legal to carry guns in public in Illinois? Depends on whom you ask.

Illinois is the only state in the country that has maintained a ban on concealed-carry, but across the river from St. Louis, the top prosecutor in Madison County now says that -- effective immediately -- citizens can carry concealed firearms. The Illinois State Police, however, says it will continue to enforce current laws prohibiting carrying guns and that individuals with loaded firearms are still subject to arrest.

"It serves no just purpose to continue to deny responsible, law-abiding citizens their Constitutional right to bear arms," Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons says in a statement.

Why is there a discrepancy here -- and could citizens who carry firearms in Madison County actually face punishment?

See also: - Concealed Carry Suit Says Missouri Is Violating Privacy Rights of Gun Owners - Missouri's Approved Gun Bills: Concealed-Carry Permits Easier to Get - GOP Wants Missouri to Destroy Personal Documents Tied to Concealed Carry

At this point, it appears that Illinois is in a confusing state of limbo with law-enforcement agencies releasing contradictory statements.

The backdrop to this latest dispute is the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling last year, declaring the ban on concealed-carry in Illinois unconstitutional. That opened the door for lawmakers in the state to formally pass a measure allowing concealed-carry -- which the state legislature approved this month.

State's Attorney Tom Gibbons. - VIA
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  • State's Attorney Tom Gibbons.

Illinois governor Pat Quinn, however, has yet to sign the measure into law, but has to make a decision within the next month. (He has yet to indicate whether he might veto the legislation.)

Gibbons, the top prosecutor in Madison County -- which includes metro east cities including Alton, Godfrey and Edwardsville -- says there is no point in waiting any longer.

In what appears to be a pretty bold move, Gibbons says that residents can immediately start carrying firearms within certain parameters and issued a strongly worded statement last week citing constitutional rights:

Continuing to criminally charge citizens for conduct that is constitutionally protected and for which charges would, ultimately, be dismissed, would be unconscionable and a terrible waste of judicial resources. Therefore, we will no longer deny responsible citizens this important right.

That means, according to Gibbons, citizens can have concealed, loaded firearms on their person or in their vehicle, if they have a proper "firearm owner identification card" and if they follow other required guidelines (full list below).

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Soon after Gibbons made his announcement, however, the Illinois State Police, which has jurisdiction throughout the state, released a joint statement -- with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois Sheriffs' Association -- with the virtually opposite message. It says the agency "will continue to enforce Illinois' current unlawful use of a weapon statute in all jurisdictions."

That statement says in no uncertain terms:

Current Illinois law prohibits the carrying of an immediately accessible or loaded firearm on your person or in your vehicle regardless of whether it is concealed. Persons in violation are subject to arrest.

In other words, it would appear at this point in time, Illinois State Police officers could arrest someone carrying a gun -- but if that person is in Madison County, he or she may not face prosecution.

This, as you could imagine, could be quite confusing for some local police departments -- as well as residents of Madison County.

Continue for response from one police department and the full announcements from Gibbons and ISP.

The Alton Police Department, for example, posted a short statement on its Facebook page on Friday noting that it has been receiving "a lot of questions regarding the new Madison County Concealed Carry Rules."

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. - VIA FACEBOOK
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  • Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

But, the department says, it can't offer any definitive response:

We are still learning about the details of the state's attorney's opinion. Until then, we cannot answer any questions.

The Alton department in its message encourages individuals to contact Gibbons' office with questions and adds, "No matter the decision you make personally, please always handle guns with respect and as safely as possible."

In its announcement, the Illinois State Police emphasize that the concealed-carry bill that passed the legislature is not yet law.

Based on the federal appeals court decision last year, the state has a deadline of July 9 before it must remove the ban on concealed-carry.

Here's the full announcement from Gibbons on concealed-carry, including the an outline of the requirements.

State's Attorney Tom Gibbons

Here's the state police's message reiterating continued enforcement of the ban.

ILLINOIS STATE POLICE AND LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSOCIATIONS ISSUE CONCEALED CARRY PUBLIC SAFETY ADVISORY

(Springfield, IL) -- The Illinois State Police, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Illinois Sheriff's Association issued a public safety advisory in response to numerous inquiries from citizens to the Illinois State Police Firearm Services Bureau, that it will continue to enforce Illinois' current unlawful use of a weapon statute in all jurisdictions.

Current Illinois law prohibits the carrying of an immediately accessible or loaded firearm on your person or in your vehicle regardless of whether it is concealed. Persons in violation are subject to arrest.

On Tuesday, June 4, 2013, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals extended the time for the current law to remain in place until July 9, 2013 or when a new law goes into effect, whichever occurs first. ISP Director Grau is reminding the public that HB183, which was recently passed by the legislature, is currently under review, pursuant to the Illinois Constitution by Governor Quinn. It has not yet become law.

Here's a copy of the Illinois bill in question, HB183:

HB183

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