Dec. 18--Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on Tuesday took aim at the state's concealed carry law that takes effect next month, calling it a "monstrosity" that is "fraught with problems and holes" and vowing to object to permits being issued to those arrested even once in the last seven years for domestic violence, gun possession or gang crimes.
Dart wouldn't rule out going to court to seek an injunction to block what he called an "absolutely absurd" approval process, saying the law will result in permits being issued to people who shouldn't have them.
"This is not something I'm going to blindly go along with, saying, 'All right, they've done it again to us in Springfield, another law that doesn't make any sense and we're just going to stand back and do it,'" Dart told reporters at the sheriff's police headquarters in Maywood.
"How many more incidents do we need to see where people shouldn't have guns?"
The law tasks Illinois State Police with overseeing the permit process but gives county sheriffs, state's attorneys, local police and the attorney general's office the power to object to a permit being issued. When objections are made, a review board will decide if the permits will be issued.
Illinois is the last state in the U.S. to allow residents to carry concealed handguns. While the law takes effect Jan. 1, the first permits are expected to be issued in early April, a state police spokeswoman said.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, criticized Dart's concerns and said background checks already being run by state police are sufficient to keep "bad people" from getting a permit.
"I think that it's a good chance for Sheriff Dart to get some press," he said.
While Dart wants to bar permits to Cook County residents with a single arrest for domestic violence, gun possession or gang crimes, Illinois law has a less stringent standard. State police are required to file an objection if an applicant has five or more arrests in the last seven years or three or more arrests on gang-related charges.
In a Monday letter to the sheriff made public by Dart, state police director Hiram Grau said the sheriff must file his objections individually, not make a blanket objection as he hoped.
Nearly 360,000 Cook County residents are licensed to own a gun. Dart said he believes maybe half of them will apply for a concealed carry permit.
He said the process for running a background check on applicants is flawed, with law enforcement agencies -- including state police -- banned from searching a more comprehensive national database called LEADS.
Without that tool, Dart said he will be left searching his own databases on arrests as well as jail records. Other agencies won't be told if any objections have been filed on a permit, aides said, and they will have to do their own investigations into applicants even if state police have already determined it won't issue that person a permit.
"(It's a) horrifically unworkable (system) that clearly puts local law enforcement on the hook," the sheriff said.
He said the screening for mentally ill applicants is also woefully inadequate and flags only those who have been committed to a hospital for psychiatric treatment or been found by a physician to be a danger to themselves. Dart said that when a "bad event" happens, neighbors will wonder why police issued a permit to a person who was clearly mentally ill.
"When you throw in the mental health component here, it's like what in God's name were these people thinking?" Dart said of state lawmakers. "They were in such a hurry to get something done."
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