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Concealed carry permit numbers higher in Highland Park, Lake Forest

Less than one percent of all residents of Highland Park, Deerfield, Lake Forest and neighboring communities hold permits to carry concealed weapons. | File
Less than one percent of all residents of Highland Park, Deerfield, Lake Forest and neighboring communities hold permits to carry concealed weapons. | File

Six months after Illinois citizens were permitted to carry concealed handguns, more Highland Park residents hold permits to bear firearms than those in neighboring communities.

Less than one percent of all citizens in Highland Park, Deerfield, Lake Forest and other nearby towns hold permits to carry handguns in public six months after a law went into effect Jan. 1 allowing the practice, according to Illinois State Police Lt. Steve Lyddon.

Of the 366 people who applied for permits between Jan. 1 and June 30 in Deerfield, Lake Forest, Highland Park, Highwood, Riverwoods and Bannockburn, only three applicants were denied, all in Highland Park, according to Lyddon’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request as well as one from the Highland Park Police Department and data provided by Lake Forest and Bannockburn.

Highland Park has 114 residents with active permits, Lake Forest 89, Deerfield 71, Lake Bluff 49, Riverwoods 21, Highwood 15 and Bannockburn five, according to the reporting agencies. Highland Park has made two objections with one resulting in a denial, according to the FOIA response. None of the other communities filed objections.

Highland Park Police Chief Paul Shafer was unwilling to comment on his department’s investigations or the impact of the new law on his city.

“City policy requires that I not comment on matters that may reflect upon pending litigation,” Shafer said. Highland Park resident Arie Friedman filed a lawsuit in December challenging the city’s assault weapons ban, which is still pending in court. Mayor Nancy Rotering did not return calls asking for comment before publication.

Once a person applies for a permit, the Illinois State Police conduct a background check to determine if there is a reason a person should not get one. Of the 65,755 who have asked in Illinois, 1,881 have been refused, according to Lyddon. In Lake County, 3,080 persons have permits and 72 were denied.

Local police departments have the opportunity to file an objection to any application. Typically, local officers check the state’s website to learn if they have had contact with an applicant currently living in their town or having resided there during the last 10 years, according to Deerfield Police Chief John Sliozis.

“We have a 30-day window to determine if there is some reason a gun permit has should not be issued,” Sliozis said. “It is the job of the police department to determine if the person would harm themselves or someone else.”

Specifically, local departments look to see whether a person has a gang affiliation, a history of mental illness or domestic violence, according to Lake Forest Deputy Police Chief Karl Walldorf. These are areas where there might not be an arrest record the state police would see.

“Our department can have contact with a person with mental illness problems because that does not (typically) result in an arrest,” Walldorf said. “A lot of times a victim of domestic violence chooses not to prosecute.”

The new law has not significantly changed the way area police officers are doing their job, according to Walldorf and Sliozis.

“When an officer has contact with a person (the officer) always assumes (the person) has a gun,” Sliozis said. “Now (the person) can be doing it legally. Since the institution of the law people have responded yes when asked. They are obeying the law.”

Deerfield Mayor Harriet Rosenthal was not surprised by the numbers. She also expressed confidence in the Deerfield Police Department doing its part.

“(The numbers) seem to be proportionate to the population of the communities,” Rosenthal said. “I have full confidence in our police department. It is what it is.”

Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson did not respond to requests for a comment on this story by deadline.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story included inaccurate numbers issued by a reporting agency. We sincerely regret the error.

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