When Illinois became the last state to pass laws permitting concealed firearms, both critics and proponents had pre-designed narratives about what the effects would be.
What has occurred since permits began flowing in January suggests we are at least two states that barely overlap.
As of July, the state had issued 69,000 permits, which suggest we’re arming ourselves at a feverish pace. But the statistical truth is quite different. We are quite moderate in acquiring armaments.
The desire for concealed guns was portrayed largely as the right to protect oneself against street crime.
Illinois counties with the broadest racial and cultural demographics are the least interested in being armed on the street. The more rural and isolated, the more armed the residents.
Chicago and Cook County have signed up for the most permits — 17,477. But Cook County has 5 million residents, which means the rate of legal gun ownership is 0.33 percent, which ranks 96th of the state’s 102 counties.
As for Lake County, we’ve acquired 767 permits, but that ranks us 99th of the 102 with a 0.11 percent buy-in. Neighbors McHenry (98th) and Kane (91st) are similarly moderate in gun toting habits.
In fact, the counties with the lowest permit rates are all densely populated with diverse urban populations.
Which counties have the highest rates and what do they all have in common?
Of the top four, all have county total populations about the size of Gurnee or even smaller. They all are at least 93 percent white and rural. It’s not clear what sort of urban crime onslaught they believe the guns will stop.
Mason County’s 14,330 citizens have 2,024 permits, which means 14 percent of local citizens now are packing or prepared to pack.
After Mason County, the other most-armed counties are Shelby, Saline and Massac.
At the other end of the scale is Springfield and Sangamon County. They have 197,000 citizens but asked for only 48 permits.
What can’t be shown is whether concealed carry has solved any problems or caused any.