U.S.A. – -(Ammoland.com)- Concealed carriers complying with the governor’s executive order to wear face masks in public settings as a precaution against Covid-19 transmission could find themselves facing serious legal consequences, Fox Illinois reported Monday. That’s because, per Illinois Statutes, “A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons when he knowingly…Carries or possesses in a vehicle or on or about his person any pistol, revolver, stun gun or taser or firearm or ballistic knife, when he is hooded, robed or masked in such manner as to conceal his identity…”
“According to the law, this is a class 4 felony,” the report elaborates. “Although this is one of the least severe penalties, it can still carry a potential jail sentence between 1 to 3 years.”
Not to worry, the Illinois State Police implies in its statement in response to concerns:
“The Governor’s Executive Order regarding the wearing of masks or protective facial coverings in public settings during this serious global pandemic was not intended to negatively impact permit holders under the Illinois Concealed Carry Act while legally carrying firearms. The Executive Order does not require or suggest that law enforcement should arrest or criminally charge conceal carry license permit holders for wearing protective masks while in public as long as they are complying with the other provisions of the Illinois Concealed Carry Act and are not committing any other violations of Illinois law. ISP has confidence that law enforcement officers across the state will use appropriate judgment and that elected State’s Attorneys will likewise exercise sound prosecutorial discretion.”
That expression of “confidence” is not a guarantee and has no authority to override enacted law. Relying on “judgment” (with an “appropriate” qualifier) and “discretion” is an admission that any such decisions will hinge on how enforcers choose to respond to a given situation and detainee. It also means a mask charge could be tacked on to an inadvertent violation where no criminal intent exists. (Case in point, how much “discretion” could be involved in defining “partially exposed”?)
It also presupposes everyone in the chain of command has been informed and will act in accordance with ISP’s tepidly-stated intent. We know from experience that expecting all police officers to be informed on such matters falls far short of 100%, often with life-threatening consequences.
Again, case in point, in Ohio, I had petitioned three successive attorneys general over the years to ensure law enforcement officers received training to acknowledge that open carry was legal. Despite that, incidents had been reported of cops holding armed citizens at gunpoint, and two even cavalierly traded Facebook jokes about “double-tapping” open carriers.
“Haha that's when you attend one of their meetings and laugh at them cuz they can only dream to have a ccw”
Closer to home, since we are dealing with Illinois concerns, we mustn’t forget the chilling words of former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who rabidly opposed concealed carry and made what should have been considered an actionable threat with his “shoot first” training policy:
“I don’t care if they’re licensed legal firearms. I’ll train our officers that there is a concealed carry law, but when somebody turns with a firearm in their hand the officer does not have an obligation to wait to get shot to return fire and we’re going to have tragedies as a result of that. I’m telling you right up front.”
Sucks to be a plainclothes officer, a LEOSA retiree, or a federal agent around him. Not to mention a lawful citizen.
With all the cases of documented abuses and in light of its noncommittal “commitment,” we can’t forget that ISP has a history with armed citizens, particularly women, that is ridiculous and offensive. It was not that long ago women were being advised not to have a gun, but instead, if confronted by an attacker, to vomit, and stab ‘em with a rat tail comb.
Illinois gun owners need something more binding than the ISP statement. It’s on Attorney General Kwame Raoul to issue an unequivocal directive and ensure that law enforcement agencies so instruct their officers. Then again, noting the guy’s monomaniacal obsession with grabbing guns, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.