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Laurel White / MEDILL

Estelle Burda receives instruction from Mike Bius at an NRA Basic Pistol Shooting course in Lombard.

Training to tote: Illinois concealed carry coursework in limbo

by Laurel White
Aug 28, 2013


Laurel White / MEDILL

Participants in Bius' course work with model guns to learn handling and technique.


Laurel White / MEDILL

The course meets from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The final two hours are range time.


Laurel White / MEDILL

John Read carried a schedule autographed by concealed carry sponsor Rep. Brandon Phelps on July 9. That day, the legislature overrode Gov. Quinn's amendatory veto of the bill.

Read discusses why he hopes his wife of 42 years will carry a concealed weapon.

Related Links

Illinois State Police concealed carry FAQ

Technical shooting theories

Sight Alignment and Sight Picture
Aligning your front and rear sights (Sight Alignment) is the most critical point, along with your point of aim (Sight Picture) on the target. The key to good aim is to focus your eye on the front sight, and NOT the target, believe it or not. Your eye cannot focus on three things at different distances: target, front sight and rear sight. Therefore, focus your eye on your front sight.

 - Mike Bius, Illinois Gun Pros


The 21-foot Rule


"If I’m 21 feet from you, you have to prepare yourself for an attack - I can be on you at the same time that you pull that trigger. At 21 feet, it gets more dangerous as I move closer to you. We used to think you could be be at arms length and still shoot someone – that’s simply not true."


 - Don Haworth, Chicagoland Firearm Training

On Sept. 7, the Illinois State Police will begin approving concealed carry instructors and courses, the first official step in preparing Illinois to be a land of pistol-packing citizens when the new law goes into effect next April.

But with less than two weeks to go, a lot of mystery still surrounds the approval process.


When the Illinois General Assembly passed concealed carry in July, it delayed its effective date for several months to give state police time to implement the permit process and training requirements under the new law.

“We’re all tapping our fingers here,” said Mike Bius, a National Rifle Association-certified gun instructor at Illinois Gun Pros in Lombard. “We’re still waiting on the state police to say, ‘OK, submit your applications.’”


Citizen training isn’t the only item on the state’s to-do list hanging in bureaucratic limbo. On July 30, the Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board announced a partnership with the University of Illinois to develop a training course for police on how to interact with armed citizens.

But to date, no information on that course has been circulated, said Champaign, Ill. Police Chief Anthony Cobb. “I have not officially seen the curriculum, training dates or training locations.”

Cobb thinks his staff will likely have to develop and provide initial training within the department for the 99 police officers on the force.

“I'm not sure the board can meet this need for my agency and all the other agencies of the state before concealed carry actually occurs in our communities,” he said.

Training courses for citizens and law enforcement will determine the culture of concealed carry in Illinois – how much gun carriers know, how they interact with other citizens and how law enforcement interacts with them.

Rolling out citizen training

Illinois citizens who want to carry a concealed weapon are required to complete 16 hours of training.

By law, the course must include firearm safety, basic principles of marksmanship, care and cleaning of a firearm, loading and unloading of a firearm, an overview of relevant state and federal laws and guidance on “appropriate and lawful” interaction with law enforcement.

Additionally, all applicants must pass a live fire exercise with a concealable firearm consisting of a minimum of 30 rounds: 10 rounds from a distance of five yards, 10 rounds from a distance of seven yards and 10 rounds from a distance of 10 yards at a silhouette target approved by the state police.

Bius is concerned there won’t be enough space on Illinois gun ranges to accommodate the required shooting time, which he pegs at a few hours per course, for the estimated 300,000 individuals who may seek permits next year.

“It’s hard sometimes to get range time unless you’re an instructor that already has a relationship there,” he said. ‘That will necessitate that classes will spend an overwhelming amount of [time] in a classroom.”

Another instructor worries that the courses, as the law outlines them, will not be sufficient to prepare citizens to wield a firearm in a real-life conflict situation.

“I can see a major problem coming down the road,” said Don Haworth, an NRA-licensed instructor at Chicagoland Firearm Training in Chicago.

Haworth’s primary concern is the lack of deadly force training in the 16-hour course. Such training would address how to handle being involved in a real-life shooting situation, he explained, by discussing topics such as probable cause, disengagement and technical shooting theories (see text box).

“These are things that these people need to know: how to react, what’s going to happen if you’re involved in a shooting,” Haworth said. “You’re going to have people who are going to be able to purchase a gun and concealed carry – what’s going to happen when they lose their temper?”

Bius confirmed that his basic courses don’t include deadly force elements. These subjects are addressed in an advanced class he co-teaches with a federal firearms instructor.

“If you’ve never fired a gun before, the first class is going to get you to understand the operation – how to load, unload and shoot,” he said. “If you want more tactical situations, that’s beyond the first course.”

Bius agreed that addressing the practical, real life implications of firing a weapon is important.

“Just because you can shoot someone doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest to shoot them. If you pull the trigger, your life will never be the same,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Illinois State Police referred all media inquires regarding concealed carry coursework to its website, which says that “a registry of approved instructors and courses will be available on the ISP webpage” and that “there are currently no approved instructors or courses.”

The state police spokesperson could not provide any information about whether or not NRA-certified instructors would be grandfathered into concealed carry instructor certification or who would be reviewing the instructor and course applications.

Police need training too

Illinois concealed carry permits will begin rolling out to citizens in April 2014. Before then, the roughly 39,000 police across the state need to learn how to interact with individuals legally toting concealed weapons.

The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, the entity that trains on a variety of issues, from bloodstain pattern identification to canine explosive detection, said the concealed carry course will be required for all new recruits at the six board-certified basic training police academies in Illinois, which include the Chicago Police Department Academy and Illinois State Police Academy.

As for veteran officers across the state, the course will be made available at 16 training units throughout Illinois.

“The board’s job is to respond quickly to changes in state statute to ensure that Illinois police officers have all the instruction necessary to perform their jobs in a professional, safe manner,” said Kevin McClain, executive director of the standards board, in a press release.

McClain acknowledged in the release that it would be a “momentous undertaking to train both new police recruits and the state’s nearly 40,000 current police officers by early next year.”

The board didn’t respond to inquiries about whether its course has been fully developed, or when academies and mobile units around the state will begin teaching it.

Some local law enforcement entities, such as the Champaign police department in downstate Illinois, are planning to take the training into their own hands because they’re unsure the state police courses will accommodate them by next April.

Other departments are handling their own training due to budgetary constraints.

“We will not utilize the training board specifically unless there is a mandate to do so,” Carbondale Chief of Police Jody O’Guinn said in an interview. “It is more efficient and cost effective for us to perform in-house training whenever possible.”

O’Guinn said her support services division is already working to develop the training.

Looking ahead

The next seven months will close the gap between theory and practice for concealed carry in Illinois. During that time, legislators will reconvene in Springfield to tie up loose ends from the spring legislative session.

Sen. Kwame Raoul, co-sponsor of the successful concealed carry legislation, has said there might be attempts to make legislative changes to the bill when the legislature reconvenes in October.

Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence, said she hopes that amendments to strengthen restrictions on concealed carry will surface then.

Whether those changes may impact concealed carry coursework remains to be seen.