Generally, fewer and fewer people are applying for concealed carry permits (CCP) in Illinois since the state became the last in the U.S. to legalize concealed carry three years ago.
According to Illinois State Police, the first year the law was implemented, 103,797 applications were filed. The following year, only 60,270 residents applied.
Todd Lough, an associate law enforcement professor at the Western Illinois University and a former Chicago police officer, tells the The State Journal-Registrar that the decline is the result of a combination of factors.
First, he notes that many Illinois residents who were excited about the new legislation likely rushed to file their permits as soon as the law went into effect.
“If you look at American society, most of the guns in this country are owned by a relatively small percentage of the population,” Lough tells The State Journal-Registrar. “I think that population was probably very excited about being able to conceal-carry, and I think a lot of those people got the permits fairly quickly, but the fact is, you reach a saturation point where most of the people who want to concealed-carry have the permits.”
Lough mentions another obvious factor: the political climate.
In 2016, Illinois saw a slight bump in CCP applications; 76,098 were filed. It’s safe to assume this was a result of the 2016 election, during which many Second Amendment supporters filed for concealed-carry permits and purchased guns in anticipation of stricter gun laws under Hillary Clinton.
Now that a pro-2A president is back in office, the number of CCP applicants is back down. So far this year, only 32,930 Illinois residents have filed for a concealed carry permit.
“The NRA and the gun manufacturers were pretty effective during the Obama years of jimmying up fear among the population that new restrictions on gun ownership and Second Amendment rights might be just around the corner any moment,” Lough says. “Now, you have a president and Congress dominated by individuals who are primarily pro-Second Amendment and anti-gun control. It’s hard to maintain the level of fear necessary to constantly be reinforcing gun sales.”
In addition to initial excitement and politics, Lough mentions a third – and much more concerning – factor that could explain the drop in CPP applications: the declining number of places in Illinois that allows firearms.
“Given the number of places that prohibit concealed-carry in their establishment, it makes it pretty difficult for concealed-carry people to go about their business.”
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, cited the same issue. If you can’t carry in most places, then what’s the point?
“A gun-free zone is a shooting gallery for bad guys,” Pearson says, adding that he’d like to see more establishments allow concealed carry.
Since 2014, a little more than 255,000 concealed carry permits have been issued in the state. As that number continues to grow, albeit slowly, perhaps Illinois lawmakers will consider lifting some of the restrictions on where gun owners can carry.