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County officials mull policy changes in response to concealed carry legislation

Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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GENEVA – By this summer, Illinois lawmakers will enact legislation that will allow those in the state to legally carry concealed firearms.

But as the legislation takes shape, those who oversee operations at Kane County’s courthouses and safety at various public buildings say the county should plan policies to respond to whatever rules are produced from Springfield.

“There are still lots of ‘ifs’ surrounding this issue,” Kane County Chief Judge Judith Brawka said. “So my suggestion is to begin planning now so we’ll know how we’re going to react to what comes in the legislation without coming under a time crunch.”

In December, a federal appeals court struck down Illinois’ ban on concealed firearms. The court gave state lawmakers until June to enact a law expressly permitting concealed carry.

Illinois had been the only state in the U.S. to not allow concealed carry.

State lawmakers began discussing the matter last month, and the Illinois House of Representatives approved a series of amendments to proposed concealed carry legislation that would ban concealed firearms in various places in the state.

Schools, casinos, government buildings, courthouses, stadiums and public transportation vehicles were among those places in which state representatives believed concealed firearms should not be allowed.

Brawka and Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez said the county likely will need to update its policies. Brawka noted that the county will need to decide what to do with legally permitted concealed firearms carried by county employees.

She said the county could obtain so-called lockboxes to store the personal weapons, but private citizens from the public visiting the courthouse would not be permitted to carry firearms to county courthouses.

She said there is “no way” court security could guarantee the safety of those in the building or the security of the weapon in storage if private guns are brought to the courthouse because that would take “hundreds of lockers.”

“We’re going to do a public information and education campaign, definitely,” Brawka said. “We’re going to tell people, ‘Do not bring your weapon to court,’ and not even onto the property.

“We don’t want anyone pulling out guns on this property.”

Perez also noted his concerns with the possibility of storing firearms on site at government buildings.

“We don’t have the room or the money for that many lockboxes,” Perez said.

But the sheriff said his office would not react to the legislation until he knows for certain what regulations will be enacted.

“Depending on what the exceptions are, it could create a real problem for us,” Perez said.

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