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TROUBLESHOOTERS: Gun owners losing concealed carry licenses at fault of instructors

IL (HOI) – One Canton man says his concealed carry license was revoked at no fault of his own. It turns out, he’s not alone. People in Illinois are receiving similar letters warning them to turn in their CCL, or risk being arrested.

After months of struggle to get his CCL back legally, Ken Cook says he’s frustrated with Illinois State Police.

“The letter stated you have to surrender your conceal carry license within 48 hours or risk the possibility of a warrant being issued for an arrest,” said Cook.

Cook said he felt like he was made a criminal when we received the revocation letter. It was a complete shock to the Canton man, who says he and his wife had their license to carry a gun since 2014.

“All of a sudden it’s revoked because my instructor was audited and they revoked his certification and therefore a chain reaction, everyone he taught was revoked because the training deemed insufficient by the state of Illinois,” said Cook.

His instructor Russell McCormick, known as Mike, was one of many who had his teaching certification taken away because his course didn’t match the approved curriculum during an audit.

“They said he didn’t provide the correct amount of time for the class. They said the class should consist of 16 hours but the approved curriculum on the Illinois State Police website says the 16 hour class must contain a minimum of the following topics… and it breaks it down and that only adds up to a total of 6 hours,” said Cook.

Cook said his course with McCormick was eight hours long and covered all required topics. Though he considered it all an inconvenience, Cook said his major frustration didn’t start until he tried to get his concealed carry license back, and state police were nearly impossible to contact.

October 6th – Cook and his wife received revocation letters.

October 7th – Cook and his wife surrendered their CCL’s and filed an appeal on the state police website as the revocation letter advised.

October 22nd – Cook paid and completed another concealed carry course under a new instructor. He tried to upload his new documents to the firearms website, but couldn’t due to website flaws.

Mid to late October – Cook says he called the firearms bureau several times but could never speak to an actual person. Cook was able to leave his information with a state trooper eventually, but says no one ever returned his calls.

October 30th – Cook emails IllinoisCarry spokesperson Valinda Rowe. Rowe advises Cook to mail a copy of his new certification to the firearms bureau. He has documents showing he sent it right away.

November 22nd – Cook still had no update. Cook emails then-Governor Bruce Rauner’s office asking for help.

December 3rd – Cook contacted Rowe against through email, she advised he resend the certificate again.

December 5th – Nearly 45 days after finishing his second CCL course, a representative with Bruce Rauner’s office let Cook know his original appeal was being processed.

Mid December – Cook finally was got his new concealed carry license in the mail.

However, the confusion didn’t stop there for Cook.

“When I got my concealed carry license back in the mail, five days after that I got a letter in the mail from the Illinois State Police that said hey we just reviewed your appeal and we’ll be granting your appeal so you’ll be getting your conceal carry back… when I already got my license back in the mail,” said Cook.

But Cook isn’t the only one having issues contacting Illinois State Police about concealed carry questions, instructors and students are also getting no response.

“It’s always been hit or miss. If you call, sometimes you can get a real person, sometimes it’s an automated voice, sometimes it doesn’t even let you get through,” said Brian Wood. Wood is a CCL instructor with Good Shepherd Defense & Training.

Wood says the revocation letters are new to him, but the lack of communication from state police is not.

“It’s frustrating because if people have a question I tell them to contact state police directly. These people are trying to get information to comply with the law, it’s difficult and frustrating when they can’t talk to someone that can tell them right from wrong,” said Wood. On the day of the interview with HOI ABC, Wood tried calling the bureau more than six times with no one ever answering.

I also, Jenise Rebholz, struggled to talk with a firearms bureau representative. I originally reached out to Chief Public Information Officer, Lieutenant Matt Boerwinkle. He denied my request for an interview, citing pending litigation. Further emails to Lt. Boerwinkle were ignored.

I was eventually referred to Tazewell County State’s Attorney Stewart Umholtz.

“It seems as if the revocation letters were pretty harsh, and would be the type of letter you would expect to be sent from a violator when in fact these were victims,” said Umholtz.

Umholtz was unable to give an exact number of people impacted, but says it could dozens to even hundreds.

He says the state police are likely understaffed to address this problem and emphasizes that these people losing their CCL are victims of a crime.

“They really do not have adequate resources to try and do that business or conduct that business in a timely fashion,” said Umholtz.

Umholtz says he expects their criminal investigation to conclude in the next few weeks, then he should be able to provide more information.

In the meantime, Umholtz recommends anyone in similar situations contact their local representatives with their concerns.

Jenise Rebholz will continue to follow this story as we wait for possible criminal charges to be filed against instructors.

Jenise Rebholz

Evening Anchor, Heart of Illinois ABC

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