Concealed carry means concealed. Unfortunately for one Cook County, Illinois judge, he failed to grasp that concept. While walking out of the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Judge Joseph Claps’ gun fell out of his jacket and skittered onto the floor. Not missing a beat, he picked it up and continued on his way.
There’s just one problem. Illinois law prevents judges from carrying firearms in courthouses. Now Judge Claps faces a $150 fine for carrying a concealed firearm in a prohibited location. Worse, though, the mainstream media have picked up the story. Of course, they treated it as if the judge had committed murder.
From the Chicago Tribune:
A veteran Cook County judge was hit with a misdemeanor gun charge after sheriff’s deputies saw him drop a pistol last week in the lobby of the county’s main criminal courthouse, authorities said.
Judge Joseph Claps, who has presided over felony criminal cases at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, was reassigned last week to “nonjudicial duties” pending a meeting Wednesday of the circuit court’s executive committee, a spokesman for Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ office said.
Claps was walking in the lobby of the courthouse at 26th Street and California Avenue on July 3 when two deputies noticed a handgun fall out of a jacket draped over the judge’s arm, according to a sheriff’s incident report.
Security cameras captured the gun tumbling out of Claps’ jacket as well as the judge picking up the silver pistol and putting it in his pants pocket, the report said.
One more time, for those who have a valid Illinois carry license, the Land of Lincoln provides a mere $150 fine for a first-time conviction for carrying in a prohibited area. Yes, even for local judges. Or Supreme Court judges or law clerks for that matter. What’s more, no matter your station in life, the state doesn’t seize the gun or suspend the license.
Reluctantly, I admit to losing a mag pouch while changing at the gym one day. Similar to the judge, it fell off my belt and skittered across the floor. Only in my case, it ended up under a naked 70-something old man dripping with sweat. When I asked if he could slide it back over to me I found out he was deaf, too. The moral of the story? Keep your gear secured on your belt. It saves lots of embarrassment.
In a county where prosecutors worry more about providing affordable bail for criminal suspects than protecting the law-abiding, it should surprise no one that the good judge carries a heater. No doubt plenty more do. The smart money says the others will exercise greater care in how they carry their sidearms in the future.
As for Judge Claps, my people in the Cook County system tell me they like him. He’s a decent guy who doesn’t really need to work. He could retire any day he wants. After this episode, he may do just that.