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Rights of an Illinois business owner to carry a firearm in their place of business

Earlier today a client and small business owner had the unsettling experience of a threatening patron in his shop. He asked me whether or not he could legally carry a firearm in his place of business.

First, a few notes of caution:

  • In Illinois an individual must have a valid FOID card to possess and acquire firearms and ammunition. You can apply for a FOID card here.
  • In addition to Illinois law, some local governments have additional restrictions on the possessing and carrying firearms. Before carrying in your business, be sure to determine whether any local government restrictions may apply.
  • Even if it is permissible to keep a firearm on the premises of a business, the owner absolutely must be sure to keep the firearm secure and inaccessible to others.
  • Even if it is permissible for a business owner to carry or possess a firearm in their place of business, they are almost certainly breaking the law if they step outside their business, however briefly.

As a matter of state law, the criminal offense of "unlawful use of weapons" in 720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4) includes an exception for carrying or possessing a firearm in his own abode or "fixed place of business."

The key language from the statute is set forth below:

(720 ILCS 5/24-1) (from Ch. 38, par. 24-1) Sec. 24-1. Unlawful Use of Weapons.

(a) A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons when he knowingly...

(4) Carries or possesses in any vehicle or concealed on or about his person except when on his land or in his own abode, legal dwelling, or fixed place of business, or on the land or in the legal dwelling of another person as an invitee with that person's permission, any pistol, revolver, stun gun or taser or other firearm....

Based on my research, I believe a business owner who holds a FOID card can carry a firearm in their "fixed place of business" without violating state criminal law.

The analysis above concerns only the legal question, not the moral question or practical question of whether or not carrying a firearm in your place of business is the right thing to do or even a good idea. In most scenarios, if a business is robbed at gun point, simply handing over the cash is the wisest course. It avoids taking a life, and minimizes the risk to your own life and the lives of third-parties. Even a well-trained marksman may struggle in the addrenaline-fueled tension of behind held up at gun point and may miss badly and injure or kill an innocent person. And the above doesn't address the legal complications sure to arise if it is ever necessary to brandish or fire the firearm in a place of business. That said, it's hard to argue with the old adage "it's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6."

Additional resources provided by the author

Illinois State Police Firearm's Owners FAQ: http://www.isp.state.il.us/foid/firearmsfaq.cfm
NRA Summary of Illinois Gun Laws: http://www.nraila.org/gun-laws/state-laws/illinois.aspx

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