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Winnebago County’s concealed carry committee meets Oct. 17

October 08, 2012 at 09:23 AM

Rockford Register Star

The special Winnebago County Board committee formed to tackle concealed carry will meet for the first time on Oct. 17.

The three-member committee led by gun-rights advocate and County Board member Jim Webster meets at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Veteran’s Memorial Hall, 211 N. Main St., Rockford.

The committee will take comments from the public and may discuss how to handle the request the Rockford Tea Party brought before the County Board in August, which asked the board to create a local concealed carry law even though it would violate the state’s ban on concealed firearms.

Here is an earlier story on the issue published Sept. 21:

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato and his political rival Glen Weber share a similar stance on concealed carry laws.

Both want statewide passage of laws that allow for residents to carry concealed firearms and each says the county can’t create its own ordinance that would violate state law.

Winnebago County’s Public Safety Committee tabled a proposal to create a local concealed carry law on Wednesday and instead passed a resolution in support of House Bill 6225. The bill wouldn’t have Illinois issue concealed carry permits, but attempts to prevent criminal charges for carrying a concealed weapon in Illinois, so long as the person carrying had a valid FOID card, completed a gun safety course and had a concealed carry license from another state.

Rockford Tea Party Coordinator David Hale said in an email that House Bill 6225 is “a bad piece of legislation that would require someone to have to defend themselves in court after being charged with a crime.”

The Rockford Tea Party presented 11,000 signatures in support of concealed carry to the Winnebago County Board Aug. 9 and were frustrated by Bruscato’s legal advice, which said the board can’t create its own ordinance that violates state law. Weber shares the same opinion as Bruscato in that regard.

“If the concealed carry ordinance would have passed, it would have been contrary to state law and as state’s attorney I would have to advise the board as such,” Weber said.

Weber said the state’s attorney’s next step went too far.

“Mr. Bruscato’s office took it a step further, however, and interfered with the process while advocating for HB 6225 in a resolution. (A) resolution which effectively killed the process,” Weber said. “I would have simply given the County Board my legal advice, without killing the process started by 11,000 residents of Winnebago County.”

A memo from Deputy State’s Attorney Dave Kurlinkus to Chairman Scott Christiansen said he was asked to draft a resolution in support of concealed carry. Read the full memo here.

Members of the Rockford Tea Party put the blame on Bruscato on Wednesday because he advised the County Board against creating a concealed carry ordinance.

“I’m not going to advise the county to violate the law,” Bruscato said Thursday.

Rockford Tea Party Coordinator David Hale said tabling the motion was a cowardly move. He said the county would have been protected from civil liability by Sovereign Immunity, which protects government bodies from civil lawsuits. Sovereign Immunity, however, can only be asserted by a state, not a county, Kurlinkus said.

Winnebago County isn’t the only one wrestling with its laws that govern holding concealed firearms.

Petitions similar to those presented by the Rockford Tea Party are circulating in other counties.

There is also the unusual case of McLean County State’s Attorney Ronald Dozier, who said he would refuse to enforce the law that bans concealed carry because he thinks it’s unconstitutional.

Bruscato disagrees with Dozier’s approach.

“We have no such authority to grant blanket exceptions,” Bruscato said. “The discretion of the state’s attorney is to be exercised properly on a case-by-case basis. It is an abuse of the authority of the state’s attorney.”

Laws are written in Springfield and it’s the state’s attorney’s duty to uphold those laws, not pick which ones he agrees or disagrees with, Bruscato said.

Weber agrees that there shouldn’t be across the board exemptions.

Dozier is “really saying nothing that we don’t already know, which is that a state’s attorney already has the discretion to prosecute any case,” Weber said.

Weber promises more review of gun charges before an arrest is made. He said his approach would call for both a felony review and a gun review “so that we’re not arresting people first and deciding whether they have a defense later.”

Weber wants an on-call review process so that police officers can call prosecutors when a questionable arrest arises.

For example, “if they pull someone over for a gun charge. Run the guy’s (criminal) history and if he seems to be an exception and someone who should not be arrested, then we make that charging decision there before” an arrest, Weber said.

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