CHICAGO — — The director of the Illinois State Police has turned down a request from the Cook County Sheriff's office for help in vetting applicants for concealed carry permits under the state's new firearms law.
State Police Director Hiram Grau says he can't legally share a statewide database with local law enforcement, even though Sheriff Tom Dart says he needs it to ensure gang members and people arrested for domestic violence or gun possession don't obtain permits to carry concealed weapons.
In a letter to Dart dated Dec. 16, Grau said neither local law enforcement nor the state police is allowed to use the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS) as part of the law's process that allows local agencies to object to individual applications. The reason, he said, is such a use constitutes a "non-criminal justice purpose."
Dart has said he is concerned that the way the law is written his office has no way of knowing or investigating whether someone has a criminal record or gang ties in other counties.
"It is unfair to restrict the law enforcement's ability in this way on such a critical public safety issue," Dart wrote in a letter dated Dec. 12 to Grau. "More importantly, it is misleading to the public to let them believe we are able to conduct any serious review of applicants when we cannot."
Dart has made no secret of his concerns about the bill that state lawmakers passed earlier this year that made Illinois the last state in the United States to make it legal for residents to carry concealed weapons. He has been particularly worried about the provision in the bill that requires law enforcement agencies to object to a governor-appointed panel if they suspect applications are dangerous to themselves or others.
He has said that people who have been identified as potentially dangerous in other counties will almost certainly get concealed carry permits in Cook County because Dart's office did not have the information about their criminal history.
Also, he has said , in a county where there are about 360,000 licensed gun owners — easily the highest total of any county in the state — it will be impossible to do a thorough job of analyzing what will certainly be a flood of applications.