Long paintballs are now legal in Illinois, with the Illinois Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs announcing Tuesday that it’s finally done with the state’s long-delayed process to approve gun licenses for players.
The department has taken up a $2.5 million project to implement the licensing process for players in 2017.
The state Department of Justice had initially planned to release the final licensing decision by the end of July, but the delay in issuing licenses was blamed on delays in issuing new licenses and a lack of coordination between state and federal authorities.
The new state law is expected to take effect this week.
The move to get the process going is significant, said Brian Siegel, a former state police sergeant who now runs a company called The Shooting Company.
He’s already received hundreds of calls from people interested in playing paintball, which has become a big business in the state.
“We have a really talented and passionate group of people,” Siegel said.
“We’ve got to get them to take the plunge and do it.”
The state has the resources to license players, including new state troopers who will be on the job in 2017 to oversee the issuance of the first-time licenses.
It also will have the support of the National Guard.
Siegel said his company, which currently serves about 10,000 players annually, has been working with a number of state and county law enforcement agencies to get approval for new players, but they’ve been bogged down by a long process of issuing new firearms licenses.
The first-of-its-kind process has been slowed by the state Department’s recent budget cuts, which have also forced some counties to take more stringent steps to keep pace with the demand for the sport.
The state also has had to delay or cancel dozens of paintball games that were scheduled to take place this weekend and next week.
Still, the new law has been praised by some, including the Illinois Manufacturers Association, which says it will be a boon to the state and make it easier for players to play.
“The bill does everything it can to help our state’s economy and the business community,” said Greg Smith, the association’s chief operating officer.
“It provides a level playing field for players and creates more jobs and more revenue.”
The association also has lobbied for a statewide requirement that players obtain a concealed carry license, arguing that it would be prohibitively expensive and would force the industry out of the state entirely.
It is still unclear what impact the new bill will have on paintball in Illinois.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a nonprofit that represents the shooting sports industry, has said that the new state rule is not yet final, but that it is working with local officials to address the state requirement.
“Our goal is to have the rule implemented in a manner that is safe, legal and in compliance with all the state requirements,” the foundation said in a statement.