Justin Wingerter

EDWARDSVILLE, IL (KMOX) – In an announcement to law enforcement and the public Thursday, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons opened the door for citizens in the county to “begin carrying concealed firearms on their person or in their vehicle” if they meet specific conditions.

“It serves no just purpose to continue to deny responsible, law-abiding citizens their Constitutional right to bear arms,” Gibbons wrote. “Continuing to criminally charge citizens for conduct that is constitutionally protected and for which charges would, ultimately, be dismissed, would be unconscionable and a terrible waste of judicial resources. Therefore, we will no longer deny responsible citizens this important right.”

Seven guidelines must be met by those in the county wanting to carry a concealed firearm:

1. Must be issued and possess a valid F.O.I.D. card or, if not an Illinois resident, a valid concealed carry permit from a state that performs a background check prior to issuance of the permit;

2. Must be carrying the firearm for self-defense;

3. Must not be prohibited from possession of a firearm under another statute or court order;

4. Must keep the firearm concealed on their person or in their vehicle, not visible to the public;

5. Must not be engaged in any criminal conduct;

6. Must be in compliance with all other federal, state and local laws and ordinances;

7. Must, when asked, inform law enforcement officers of the firearm when in contact with an officer in the course of their duties.For example, residents must have a Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card, be carrying the firearm for self-defense, not have previous restrictions on gun ownership, and must keep the gun hidden.

“I cannot overstate the importance of citizens exercising this important right in a responsible manner,” Gibbons said. “It is essential that individuals cooperate with any police officer and inform them of the presence of the firearm prior to removing it from its concealed location. Displaying the firearm at a public location or without the request or knowledge of an officer could constitute a violation of the law.”

The decision by Gibbons comes in the wake of a U.S. Court of Appeals decision that requires Illinois lawmakers to create concealed-carry legislation. A bill is awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature. Gibbons said his decision was made because the state “is in a gray area” on the legality of concealed weapons.

“We have to make rational decisions about how we prosecute individuals and what was happening is individuals who were engaged in conduct that had been found to be constitutionally protected were being charged with a crime. To me that seems unconscionable and certainly a waste of judicial resources,” Gibbons told KMOX News in an interview Thursday afternoon.

The decision takes effective immediately.

An official with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office said he didn’t have any comment on the new policy when asked Thursday. A Granite City Police Department spokesperson said he was not allowed to comment on the decision by Gibbons.

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