Riverside’s police chief is encouraging all of the schools within the village as well as Brookfield Zoo to post signs declaring those areas gun-free zones as Illinois’ concealed-carry handgun law goes into effect.
On Dec. 27, 2013, Police Chief Thomas Weitzel sent an email to officials at Brookfield Zoo, St. Mary School and Riverside-Brookfield High School, highlighting language in the new concealed-carry law that requires uniform and conspicuous signage denoting that concealed handguns are prohibited from being carried on those premises.
“The statute requires you to post the attached signage at both vehicle and pedestrian entrances to your property,” Weitzel wrote. “If you have a parking lot, you will have to print or have street signs made.”
Weitzel also noted in his email that he had been in contact with Riverside School District 96 officials and that the school district would be following through on his recommendation.
On Jan. 5, licensed handgun owners were able to apply for concealed-carry permits. While it may take weeks or months to process those permits, Weitzel urged school officials to take action immediately.
“I’m not judging concealed carry, I’m just judging allowing concealed carry in school buildings or the zoo,” Weitzel told the Landmark.
According to Weitzel, Brookfield Zoo was not on the initial list of places where it is prohibited to carry a concealed weapon. In March 2013, he sent a letter to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to lobby for language prohibiting concealed firearms at schools and family parks like Brookfield Zoo.
“It’s my contention that concealed carry will introduce an element into these environments that will cause undue anxiety, tension, concern and fear,” Weitzel wrote. “In my professional opinion, allowing concealed carry on Brookfield Zoo property would be disastrous.
“Deadly weapons have no place at educational facilities and family parks.”
Brookfield Zoo lies within the corporate limits of both Riverside and Brookfield.
The concealed-carry law includes a list of about two dozen places where concealed weapons are prohibited, including public and private elementary and high schools, public universities, state parks, courts, local government buildings, hospitals, public transportation, taverns, stadiums, airports, amusement parks and museums.
The law also allows private property owners, specifically commercial property owners, to prohibit concealed weapons as long as state police-approved signs are clearly posted. However, a clause in the law appears to state that any place concealed weapons are prohibited, even if named in the statute, must post signs indicating the prohibition.
Approved signs measure 4-by-6 inches and depict a black handgun with a circle around it and a slash through it.
Anyone who violates the concealed-carry law regarding prohibited places faces being charged with a Class B misdemeanor. Anyone convicted of a Class B misdemeanor can be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail and fined up to $1,500.
A second violation can result in being charged with a Class A misdemeanor (up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine) and a six-month suspension of the concealed-carry license. The license can be revoked permanently after a third violation, which would also trigger Class A misdemeanor charges.