With conceal-carry rights, proceed with caution

As we all know by now, Illinois has joined the list of states allowing for concealed- carry possession of firearms. Since it went into effect this New Year’s, people have flocked to apply for these permits: 5,300 people from Cook County have applied from Jan. 5 to Jan. 13, and according to an Associated Press piece, Illinois legislators suspect that somewhere from 350,000 to 400,000 Illinois residents will apply for these permits throughout the course of the year.

Despite the fact that DePaul policy continues to prevent the possession of firearms on school property, a certain portion of these upcoming applicants are naturally going to be DePaul students, most likely those who live off campus without the benefit of a campus security force located nearby them. “Yes, I do know a few people here who are applying for concealed carry permits,” Brendan Newell, head of DePaul’s chapter of the conservative group Young Americans for Freedom, said. This raises concerns in a few ways.

Besides the obvious concern over reckless students who may accidentally bring firearms onto campus property, there are other well-documented concerns. In particular, the use of the guns themselves still remains in a legal gray area; the laws defining when someone has the justified “right to shoot” are not exactly well defined. The official Illinois law book has long stated that

“(A person) is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony.”

Despite recent developments, these vague laws have not been updated at all, which can be especially troublesome considering the increased number of firearms that are about to be on the streets.

“There are two questions, that of objective and subjective danger,” Andrea Lyon, a DePaul law professor, said. “Objectively, anyone pointing a gun at someone is putting people at potential harm. But subjectively you might also see a situation of danger, such as a person who suspiciously puts their hand in their pocket. In these cases it’s really up to a jury.”

Some people may feel safer just possessing a gun; as Newell points out, “Even though most people might feel safe, there are some instances that cause fear throughout campus, (such as) in autumn quarter when a group of people were mugged (in front of) the Quad.”

However, before people think of acting in heroic ways, they need to realize that their actions regarding the use of their weaponry may be physically and legally reckless. Actions that appear reasonable during the heat of the moment may not be responsible or sanctioned by the law; even the hours of gun-training that are required of concealed-carry applicants cannot make someone immune to rushed, bad decisions.

A Tribune article described the story of a man who fired shots at a shoplifter’s car in a parking lot. The man claimed his actions were justified when, according to his report, the car nearly ran him over. He spent close to a year in jail before being released.

“Probably the main risk is that (armed) people may think they know what to do when they don’t,” Lyon said.

Perhaps even more so than the average populace, DePaul students especially need to watch out for their own use of weapons. Regarding the use of guns on campus, Lyon said, “If you were ever defending yourself – even if it might be legally warranted – the school could still expel you based on bringing a gun (to a gun-free zone) in the first place. But then again, there hasn’t ever been a situation like this, so this is all very speculative.”

Concealed-carry rights may seem like a boon to personal safety for many residents, especially in a city as large and intimidating as Chicago. However, especially until a more definitive set of laws is created – laws that better define the “right to shoot,” – guns need to be thought of at most as a deterrent, rather than treated as an active instrument of defense.