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Special Report: Preparing For A Snap Decision

Millions of people living in Illinois can soon carry a handgun on their hip. But having a potentially lethal weapon easily accessible raises a question. WMBD’s Alexandra Sutter has more in this special report.
PEORIA – Millions of people living in Illinois can soon carry a handgun on their hip. The state’s concealed carry legislation goes into effect in January. But having a potentially lethal weapon easily accessible raises a question. WMBD’s Alexandra Sutter has more in this special report.

If you’re face to face with danger, will you call for help or reach for your gun? Officials said you must understand your laws because that snap decision can have life-changing consequences.

Imagine driving up to your home, in the middle of the day. You see an unfamiliar vehicle and two unfamiliar men.

That was exactly what Peoria County Administrator Lori Curtis Luther experienced a year ago. She said, “I literally heard my dad's voice in the back of my head saying, if something doesn't seem right do not get out of your car."

To add to her fear, she was pregnant with now six month old daughter, Clover. “At that point, I really thought something was wrong. I called 911.”

Lori let law enforcement take over, and the men were soon found and prosecuted. But some people may have taken a different approach.

An approach officials said you should be certain of. Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy said, “Common sense says you're not going to be able to shoot someone leaving your house. You have to be fearing for your life. The other person has to be a genuine threat to your life, not just a perceived threat.”

State’s Attorney Jerry Brady said, “From my perspective, I think that's one of the areas that I'm most concerned about.”

Brady said if you’re going to carry, you need to know your laws. “I want to make it very clear, you know, Illinois is not, we don't have stand your ground.”

In other words, to use your gun, you must be facing a deadly force. If you’re not, you could be the one behind bars. “People will be entitled, assuming they have the concealed carry to walk down and have a concealed or partially concealed handgun. But that doesn't necessarily mean when they are faced with a circumstance they'll be equipped to use that handgun.”

That’s where good gun training is critical.

Lee Merriman is certified by the Illinois State Police to teach concealed carry training courses. He said, “Right now, I've got over 200 people signed up and waiting for a class.”

His 16 hour required class is in high demand, covering everything from safely handling the gun, to where you can legally carry and ultimately, knowing when to pull the trigger.

Merriman added, “Because if you don't, then you're going to be arrested.”

Statistics show that 76 percent of Illinois residents want to carry, in case of an emergency. State Police report that more than 10,000 people are waiting for their FOID cards to be processed. The department added that it is expecting a “high number” of applicants for the concealed carry permit in January.

Merriman said it’s his job to make sure you are ready. “I'm going to be very strict. I'm going to make sure that everybody can understand this. I'm not going to pass anyone that is not qualified.”

So before you choose to carry, have that conversation. Know how you’ll protect yourself before you’re faced with a snap decision.

You can start applying for a concealed carry permit on January 5. Once you apply, state police have 90 days to review and either approve or deny your request.

The ISP website is full of information, including the steps you need to complete before applying.

You can find more details here at http://www.isp.state.il.us/firearms/ccw/ccw-faq.cfm.
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