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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Police: Concealed Carry Masks Are OK During Pandemic

Bloomington Police Department entrance
Amy Niebur
Bloomington, Normal and McLean County Sheriff's Police have said they will assess concealed carry case-by-case during the pandemic.

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.

Jon Sandage portrait
Credit Jon Sandage
McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage said his officers won't go after people carrying a concealed weapon while wearing a mask unless the mask is used to commit a crime.

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.

Rick Bleichner
Credit Normal Police Department
Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said he doesn't anticipate a problem from concealed carry permit holders wearing masks.

“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 weaponis a Class 4 felony punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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