Concealed carry license holders in Illinois were thrown for a loop last week when Gov. JB Pritzker announced that all residents over the age of two must wear a mask in public. The problem? Wearing a mask while carrying a concealed weapon is a class 4 felony that carries a one-to-three-year jail sentence.
Both state police and at least one county attorney general have assured concealed carriers that they’re unlikely to face prosecution for following the governor’s health safety order while carrying a firearm.
Illinois State Police released the following statement, telling residents they believe law enforcement will use “appropriate judgment” (emphasis added):
“The Governor’s Executive Order regarding the wearing of masks or protective facial coverings in public settings during this serious global pandemic was not intended to negatively impact permit holders under the Illinois Concealed Carry Act while legally carrying firearms. The Executive Order does not require or suggest that law enforcement should arrest or criminally charge conceal carry license permit holders for wearing protective masks while in public as long as they are complying with the other provisions of the Illinois Concealed Carry Act and are not committing any other violations of Illinois law. ISP has confidence that law enforcement officers across the state will use appropriate judgment and that elected State’s Attorneys will likewise exercise sound prosecutorial discretion.”
The Piatt County State’s Attorney Dana Rhoades sounded a similar note, telling the Piatt County Journal Republic, “While it is difficult to make sweeping statements about what the Piatt County State’s Attorney’s Office will or will not prosecute, the Piatt County State’s Attorney will not prosecute a citizen, otherwise acting in a lawful manner, who is properly carrying a concealed weapon pursuant to a valid concealed carry permit, while wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
“The Piatt County State’s Attorney would not attempt to penalize a person who is lawfully exercising a Constitutional right while, at the same time, observing health and safety measures to present the spread of COVID-19,” Rhoades added.
Despite assurances from state police, local law enforcement and state attorneys, the government may still have the authority to arrest and prosecute someone for carrying a concealed firearm while wearing a mask. If the CCL holder is not otherwise engaged in criminal activity, it’s difficult to imagine the prosecution ultimately succeeding. But local law enforcement who disapprove of concealed carry may still use the governor’s mandate as an excuse to harass CCL holders.
According to Illinois Compiled Statutes, Chapter 38, Sec. 24-1. under unlawful use of weapons:
a) a person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons when he knowingly:
9) carries or possesses in a vehicle or on or about his or her person any pistol, revolver, stun gun or taser or firearm or ballistic knife when he or she is hooded, robed or masked in such manner as to conceal his or her identity.