A welcome move in a surprising location. Most of the time when Second Amendment supporters are talking about the suburbs of Chicago, it’s for all the wrong reasons, like Oak Park’s ban on handguns (struck down at the same time Chicago’s own ban was declared unconstitutional in 2010) or Deerfield’s ban on modern sporting rifles.
In the Cook County suburb of Orland Park, however, local officials are taking a step in the right direction by decriminalizing carrying in a gun-free zone, at least if the person has a concealed carry license and inadvertently violated a “no guns allowed” policy.
The Orland Park Village Board unanimously passed an amendment to the municipal code that will protect concealed carry license holders if they carry guns into prohibited areas within the village. Village board members unanimously approved the ordinance at the April 19 Board of Trustees meeting.
The ordinance was brought forth by the Public Safety committee, and now, concealed carry license holders who “mistakenly” carry their firearms into prohibited locations will pay a municipal fine, rather than being arrested. The Attorney General’s Office was unable to provide an opinion on the Orland Park amendment, but said they have no knowledge of any similar practices in other locations throughout Illinois.
Patch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the village, and found that in the past five years, seven arrests were made in connection with concealed carry violations.
When asked how the ordinance will be enforced, Village Attorney Dennis Walsh said officers will now have the discretion to either charge a person with the ordinance violation — similar to the parking ticket procedure — or a Class B misdemeanor, which according to the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act would require a court appearance, followed by a possible revocation of a concealed carry license.
So, the gun-free zones aren’t disappearing, but accidentally carrying inside one may no longer lead to a misdemeanor charge and having your concealed carry license revoked. That’s a good thing, and it’s pretty incredible that the move received the unanimous backing of the town’s board of trustees.
Just before the vote, Mayor Keith Pekau gave a summary of the ordinance, explaining why he thinks it’s a good idea.
“This ordinance is a good option for CCL carriers that mistakenly carry [a gun] into the wrong place, given the ever-growing list of restricted locations,” Pekau said. “Rather than referring an otherwise cooperative CCL carrier who made a mistake to the county and revoke their CCL, it allows us to give them a municipal ticket that has a consequence to the carrier, but not a revocation from the state level.”
Patch asked Pekau how the department intends to make sure the new ordinance is carried out properly. Pekau further declared his support of the ordinance.
“I fully support our Police Department, our Police Chief and his leadership team,” Pekau said in an email. “They are experts in the development and training of our police officers and have a proven track record second to none. In my opinion, we have the finest police department in the State of Illinois thanks to their leadership as well as the fine officers and support staff that they lead.”
Pekau went on to say, “I am confident that this ordinance will be well handled just like the similar ordinances we have adopted that address Disorderly Conduct, Reckless Conduct, Theft, Retail Theft, Possession of Cannabis, etc., that are enforced regularly by our officers. They deserve my trust and the trust of our residents because it is well-earned.”
It sounds like this is more of a police reform measure than an actual attempt to protect responsible gun owners, but it will still have the same effect. If Orland Park wants their police to focus on more serious crimes than accidentally carrying a gun into a gun-free zone, I have no problems whatsoever with that, though the better option is to get rid of gun-free zones entirely.
Even if this wasn’t done specifically to protect the Second Amendment rights of residents, it’s still a good move by Orland Park. I doubt we’ll see Chicago follow suit, but I’d love to see other suburbs will get behind this idea. Let the police focus on violent offenders instead of legal gun owners. It may sound crazy to the anti-gun politicians in the Chicagoland area, but it’s still the right thing to do.