Lisa Dodge, the co-owner of American Artworks Gallery, was concise and to the point: “My sticker is already up. I don’t like guns.”
Forest Park business owners gathered for a luncheon at village hall, March 11, to hear a presentation from the Forest Park police on new “concealed-carry” rules.
Commander Ken Gross told the Chamber of Commerce members the first 5,000 concealed carry handgun licenses were mailed to Illinois residents by the state police on Feb. 28, pursuant to the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act (430 ILCS 6/1) which became law in July 2013.
Merchants are adjusting to the idea that some of their customers may now be armed.
Most business owners and organization leaders in Forest Park reacted to the new law by saying that they would take steps toward making their places of business handgun-free zones by posting the 4 x 6-inch decal showing a black handgun with a red line through it on their door.
Yoko Avramov has already placed the decal on the door of her Montessori School on Circle Avenue because, “When, and if, I find someone who is carrying a concealed gun on these premises, I will have grounds to ask this person to leave even if he/she doesn’t have any intention to harm. I don’t think it messes with the Second Amendment because I believe I have a right to say what I will allow in my private premises.”
Rod Nunley at Elite Tire and Auto on Harlem said he will put the decals on his doors. “I have not given this much thought,” he said, “but I do not want guns in my store.”
According to Cmdr. Gross, on the first day that they were accepted online — Jan. 5, 2014 — 100,000 applications for concealed-carry permits were received by the state police.
The act includes a long list of areas where concealed handguns are prohibited, including our village hall, library, schools and parks.
Nevertheless, Rodger Brayden has already put the decals on the library’s doors, saying, “We simply want to make it clear that concealed-carry is not allowed in the library, even though libraries are identified as locations where concealed-carry does not apply. It isn’t clear to me whether or not the sign will act as a deterrent.”
Paul McKenna explained why he and Henry Laskowski will not be putting decals on the doors of their Starship Sub restaurant: “We have a lot of cops and Maybrook sheriffs who eat here, and we don’t want to make them feel unwelcome.”
Augie Aleksy already has pasted his decal on the front door of Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore. He added a little humor to what often is a rancorous debate.
“Having guns in a bookstore doesn’t lend itself to heated discussions on any given topic,” he said. “Some arguments have become quite lively here with voices being raised (myself included) and some nasty language being used,” he added.
“Also, I do have a hammer, some swords and knives that I can use,” Aleksy continued. “But that allows for time to think before acting, pistols are more immediate — when they work.”
Mayor Anthony Calderone said one Madison Street merchant who had already put up the decals was told by a customer, “I’m upset that you are doing this and I’m never going to shop here again.”
Without the decal, which some are referring to as the “ghostbuster” decal, conspicuously posted on the door, customers are legally permitted to carry a handgun which is 51 percent hidden into a place of business. Cmdr. Gross explained what 51 percent concealed means by giving an example. He said that if a man walks into a grocery store with a handgun tucked into the waistband of his jeans and the weapon is covered completely by his shirt, but then when reaching for a jar of pickles on the top shelf his shirt lifts up exposing only part of the gun’s handle, i.e. less than half of the gun, it is still considered “concealed” according to the law.
Commenting on the lack of precision regarding the definition of “concealed” and other parts of the law, Mayor Calderone said, “This won’t be the first time the state of Illinois has passed a law and not thought it out A to Z. What will take place over the next few years is the state police will get feedback and they’ll probably fine-tune these regulations.”
What the new law does is enable licensed gun owners to carry concealed handguns in public except where prohibited. On the law enforcement side, it authorizes police to arrest a person seen carrying a handgun in a prohibited area.
“All the law does,” said Mayor Calderone in clarification, “is give our police officers the ability to make an arrest if a gun is actually discovered.”
What the law does not do is to prevent a person from entering a prohibited area if the gun is well concealed, i.e. if no one observes the weapon. That’s why Brayden and others are skeptical about how effective the law’s prohibitions will be.
Schools discuss Ghostbuster decals
“Ghostbuster” decals were on the March 11 agenda at the meeting of the Forest Park Elementary School board. Superintendent Lou Cavallo said he wanted the board’s input into whether to put the decals on the school doors, or add signage to the perimeter of the school playgrounds.
The new laws are a proverbial moving target, Cavallo said. “The legislation is being clarified in schools,” he told the board. Cavallo said he was worried the signs would give the wrong impression about the community.
“If you’re driving around looking for a place to raise your family and you see the signs, do you think, ‘yikes!’ or ‘safety?'” he asked the board.
Board member Heather Cianciolo said she worried if the signs were not on the outer school property perimeters, people might bring concealed guns onto the playground when picking up or dropping off children.