Local impact of ruling to lift ban on concealed carry

By WEEK Producer

December 12, 2012 Updated Dec 12, 2012 at 9:05 PM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- John Meek is the owner and operator of Midwestern Firearms Company in East Peoria.

For Meek and some of his customers, Tuesday's decision by a federal appeals court striking down the state of Illinois' ban on concealed carry weapons is a long time coming.

And, he says, based on recent gun sales, many of them saw it coming.

"The anticipation of concealed carry coming to the state has been talked about by so many sources that a lot of people have gone ahead and purchased for that reason," explained Meek. "Or they went ahead and got out-of-state permits so a lot of them can carry when they travel."

Statistics would appear to reinforce that.

According to data compiled by the FBI, 95,000 more guns were purchased in Illinois during the first 11 months of this year than over the same period in 2011.

Gun owner Ross Johnson of Brimfield says it's not right that citizens of Illinois don't currently have the same ability to protect themselves as people in other states.

"We do have that constitutional right, but if you get caught out there with a firearm you're going to get arrested, and it's a felony," said Johnson. "I'd like to see that eliminated."

In addition to the primary gun rights issue, there's also an economic element to lifting the ban on concealed carry.

There are about 1.5-million gun owners in Illinois. Hundreds of thousands would likely be willing to purchase a license to carry. That would provide additional revenue to the state, which now has 180 days to create a new law that legalizes concealed carry.

The executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association says if the legislature doesn't move quickly, things could get dicey.

"If they don't pass a reasonable law and we are not going to vote for anything that is unreasonable, then at the end of the 180 days we have what is known as the constitutional period. You don't have to take a class, you don't have to get a license, you don't have to do anything," Richard Johnson said.

And while it's all sorted out, John Meek's gun shop will continue seeing steady traffic.