BLOOMINGTON — Wearing a mask with a gun in your waistband won’t be enough to bring charges in McLean County — as long as the rest of the rules are followed, the sheriff said.
When Gov. J.B Pritzker added masks as a requirement for Illinoisans going out in public, law enforcement and state’s attorneys were left to decide how to enforce the law that prohibits those with concealed-carry licenses from concealing their identities.
McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage said it seems the governor didn’t think of the implications the mask requirement would have on concealed-carry holders, who typically could be charged with a Class 4 felony for concealing their identity.
“Our stance is if you’re a legal concealed-carry holder and you are following all of the rules that apply with that, you have nothing to worry about,” he said. “It’s only when you step outside of those rules that you could have the chance of being charged with being masked as well.”
Since the executive order was announced April 23, the McLean County Sheriff’s Department has set its own guidelines, with guidance from the state’s attorney’s office, to handle the masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
"For wearing a mask and concealing a weapon to be a crime, we have to show that it is the intent of the person to conceal their identity," said McLean County State's Attorney Don Knapp. "It’s not just the mere act of wearing a mask and the mere act of concealing a weapon; it’s concealing a weapon while you are attempting to conceal your identity."
Knapp said not all masks are equal so "law-abiding citizens that are legally entitled to carry that are putting on masks for health reasons are not attempting to conceal their identity," and therefore are not breaking the law.
“As long as they’re following the law as it applies to concealed carry and they’re not using a firearm for an illegal means, I don’t believe they have anything to worry about,” Sandage said.
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Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.
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