Illinois Face Mask Order, Illinois Concealed Carry, COVID-19
(Photo by golibtolibov / iStock)

If a state governor inadvertently outlaws concealed carry for self-defense, is that egregious infringement of a constitutional right any less significant? Such seems to be the case in Illinois regarding Gov. Jay Pritzker’s recent order. It mandates Illinois residents to wear a face mask in public to help combat the spread of COVID-19. It’s a questionable order in and of itself, but it also flies directly in the face of the state’s concealed carry statute.

The Illinois Face Mask Order

Pritzker’s order goes into effect on May 1. Illinois resident must wear a face mask in certain situations. The order states: “Wearing a face covering in public places or when working. Any individual who is over age 2 and able to medically tolerate a face-covering (a mask or cloth face-covering) shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain a six-foot social distance. Face-coverings are required in public indoor spaces such as stores.”

In contrast, Section 24-1 of the carry statute, focusing on unlawful use of weapons, states: “(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.”

Violation Marks Class 4 Felony

Doing so, according to the statute is a Class 4 felony. While the least serious, a Class 4 felony is still punishable by one to three years in prison. It includes a fine up to $25,000. And, of course, such a felony conviction would bring more trouble. It would make it illegal for the individual to ever own a firearm again, for life.

One state sheriff reportedly says the portion of the law concerning wearing a mask while carrying a concealed firearm would only apply if someone was committing another crime while wearing the mask. Consequently, Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell says he “has no intention” of stopping or charging anyone; that includes those wearing a mask and legally entitled to carry a weapon.

While Campbell’s sentiment is commendable, he certainly can’t speak for other law enforcement authorities in the state. Nor is he the one responsible for interpreting state law in Illinois. At this point, it might seem like simply ignoring the governor is best. Just don’t wear a face mask when carrying a concealed firearm. But a statement released by the Illinois State Police shows that law enforcement plans to take violation of the order seriously.

Illinois State Police Statement:

Similar to enforcement questions referencing travel, the ISP will continue to act as community caretakers working to further educate citizens and businesses about the shelter at home and specific provisions as outlined in the Executive Orders pertaining to COVID-19. This includes the additional requirement of wearing a face-covering or mask in public indoor places beginning May 1. This will be required in public indoor places in Illinois for anyone over the age of two who can’t maintain the proper six feet social distance requirement and can medically tolerate the face-covering or mask. Local law enforcement and county health departments will typically be on the front lines of this mission which is geared toward ensuring public safety.

Following recommended procedures is critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Illinois State Police will work with local law enforcement to enforce this order, but adhering to the order will save lives and it is the responsibility of every Illinoisan to do their part.

While Illinois’ de facto carry ban is likely unintentional, it’s still punitive to those who practice concealed carry. It could theoretically impact a collision of legalities upon anyone practicing armed defense. So it leaves a tough decision. Do you leave your gun at home, opening yourself up to violent criminals? Or do you continue carrying without a mask, risking arrest? Or do you choose door No. 3: carrying a gun while masked, potentially committing a felony? For Illinois gun owners, it seems to be a true lose-lose-lose situation.

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