Even though local police departments can object when they believe applicants for concealed carry permits pose a threat to the public, less than 1 percent of the 33,631 applications in Illinois have been challenged, according to figures released Thursday.
A state licensing board composed of a former judge, two former prosecutors, three former FBI agents and a psychiatry professor will consider the 236 objections that police have filed since the new concealed carry law took effect this year.
The board has 30 days from the time an objection is filed to consider it. The board doesn’t have a staff and is relying on the Illinois State Police to provide files on each objection.
Board members are now holding “preliminary informational meetings” to come up with rules and are “in the process of completing their schedule,” said Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the state police.
The board’s meetings are closed but it’s supposed to provide a monthly report to the governor and legislators on the number of objections it receives and the reasons for denying any licenses.
The state police are conducting background checks and rejecting applicants with three or more gang-related arrests within seven years, five or more arrests of any type within seven years — or a history of mental illness.
Under the new law, local police and prosecutors can also file an objection with the licensing board when they believe applicants pose a danger to themselves or others. They have 30 days from the time an application is filed to oppose it.
The number of state police denials was unavailable for release Thursday, Bond said. But the agency released the total number of objections by each local police department in the state.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office filed the most in the state — 120 — followed by the Will County Sheriff’s Office with 21, according to the state police.
A dozen police departments in Cook County, including the sheriff’s office, have filed a total of 152 objections. Of them, the Oak Lawn Police Department filed nine and the Chicago Police Department only seven.
Asked about the Chicago Police Department’s low tally, spokesman Adam Collins said: “CPD will thoroughly review the concealed carry applications submitted by any individual living in the city of Chicago.”
“The process for reviewing applications is rightly time-consuming and requires multiple levels of hand entry into various CPD databases,” he said. “We are prioritizing reviews by the application due date and more than 96 percent of the applications remain in our 30-day window for review.”
In Will County, six police departments have filed a total of 31 objections; three departments filed 11 objections in Lake County; and three departments filed seven objections in DuPage County.
Cook County, meanwhile, has the highest number of residents who have filed applications, with 7,974 through Thursday. But Downstate counties have the highest percentage of residents seeking concealed carry permits.
Although the Cook County Sheriff’s Office has filed 120 objections through Thursday, the office has so far identified a total of 360 applications that it plans to oppose, said Frank Bilecki, a top aide to Sheriff Tom Dart.
The process of filing the objections sometimes takes longer than investigating the applicants, Bilecki said.
Dart has assigned 25 employees, some full-time, to screen concealed carry applications filed by anyone who has lived in Cook County over the past 10 years. His investigators are looking for arrests involving gun crimes, gang-related crimes and violent crimes — as well as histories of domestic violence and mental illness.
On Thursday, Dart’s office filed an objection after investigating a tip from one applicant’s neighbor that he was mentally ill, Bilecki said.
The office previously filed an objection to a high-ranking Latin Kings leader who’s been arrested a dozen times, but hasn’t been convicted. The leader’s lack of felony convictions qualified him to obtain a state firearm owner’s identification card — which allows him to own a gun and is one of the prerequisites to apply for a concealed carry permit.