Gov. JB Pritzker's new requirement that everyone wear a mask in public during the pandemic has created a problem for gun owners.
Concealing your identity with a mask while concealing a weapon is against the law, leaving police to sort out these conflicting directives.
McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage said if you aren't using the mask to commit a crime, then there's no crime in wearing one.
“Somebody who is legally carrying and not committing a crime, the mask isn’t going to be an issue,” Sandage said.
When asked about it last week, Pritzker said Illinois State Police will provide direction for local departments about enforcement. State Police then told local law enforcement to use “appropriate judgement” to determine if someone is breaking the law.
Sandage said he's already talked to the state's attorney and the Illinois Sheriff's Association about it.
“There seems to be a continuing amount of confusion between the governor and the state police as far as how things are going to be handled, so we prefer to check in house on how we handle it,” Sandage said.
Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said he thinks masked concealed carry will be a non-issue, but he understands why some gun owners are worried.
“I think there are some folks who look for any technical violation as an opportunity to shave off a little of the Second Amendment,” Bleichner said. “I think in those cases people are out there legitimately wanting to put some what-ifs out there.”
Bloomington Police Chief Dan Donath says he's not concerned that coronavirus masks could give criminals cover without raising suspicion.
“It provides them a slight benefit, but people have done that historically to try to prevent their identity from being known and committing crimes,” Donath said.
Bleichner said as long as gun owners keep their weapons concealed as they should, no one will know the difference.
“Because most of our experiences with our concealed carry holders, nobody knows they have a concealed carry, because they are not advertising it,” Bleichner said. “ It’s a concealed weapon and nobody is the wiser.”
State Police also said it trusts state's attorneys will "exercise sound prosecutorial discretion."
Concealing your identity while possessing a concealed weapon is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison.
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