Justin Wingerter

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KMOX) – State law enforcement groups released a statement Friday claiming they will continue enforcing the state’s current concealed carry law.

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.

The decision by Gibbons comes in the wake of a U.S. Seventh Circuit 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.

Gray area or not, the Illinois State Police, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, and Illinois Sheriff’s Association said Friday that persons who carry an accessible or loaded firearm are still subject to arrest.

“The Illinois State Police, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Illinois Sheriff’s Association issued a public safety advisory in response to numerous inquiries from citizens to the Illinois State Police Firearm Services Bureau, that it will continue to enforce Illinois’ current unlawful use of a weapon statute in all jurisdictions.

Current Illinois law prohibits the carrying of an immediately accessible or loaded firearm on your person or in your vehicle regardless of whether it is concealed. Persons in violation are subject to arrest.”

Gibbons on Friday reiterated his comments from Thursday, stating his office will not prosecute those found to be carrying concealed weapons in Madison County.

“Individual law enforcement agencies don’t work for me and I can’t speak for them and I certainly don’t presume to tell them who to arrest or not arrest,” he said. “All I can do is what I’ve done already done: tell them what will happen if they arrest someone and bring it to my office for charges. Individuals who follow the guidelines I have laid out will not be charged.”

Those guidelines for Madison County gun owners, as listed by Gibbons Thursday, are:

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 don’t think that the Illinois State Police speak for local law enforcement in our county,” Gibbons said in an interview Friday. He added that he has been in contact with police in Madison County for months and that they were well aware of his decision before it was made official.

“The entirety of that discussion was about the practical implications, with how to deal with with the situation and how to address the changes in the law and the absence of a law guiding us. That’s really what the entire conversation was about.,” he added. “No local agency has reached out to me and said they will continue to arrest.”

Alton Police spokeswoman Emily Hejna said her department doesn’t have any official position on the controversy yet and likely won’t for the next week.

“The chief is hopefully going to be sitting down with the state’s attorney within the next week or so to iron out all the details,” she said.

Hejna added that Alton police probably won’t arrest anyone with a handgun who fits the state’s attorney’s criteria for concealed carry but says she can’t guarantee it.

Calls to the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and other local police departments within Madison County were not immediately returned Friday.

Meanwhile, the legal quagmire leaves gun owners in the Metro East in limbo. Bob Bollman, owner of The Gun Shoppe in Highland, says until the dispute is resolved, he’s telling customers to not carry.

“If the police went along with Mr. Gibbons, if they could, then that would be great but they still have to enforce the laws that are written,” he said.

Bollman says the dispute has a lot of his customers coming in and asking questions.

“They’re very confused,” he says. “They’re going, ‘what could happen? What should we do?'”

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