With 15 killings in six months, East St. Louis is on track to once again earn the label of one of the deadliest cities in the country.
But residents there, like all Illinois citizens, cannot legally walk around with a concealed pistol for protection.
Steve King, who operates the Belleville Indoor Shooting Range, says law-abiding residents of East St. Louis and throughout Illinois should be able to legally carry concealed handguns to defend their lives.
"Much of the crime in our area is in East St. Louis," said King, "This is not meant to be derogatory toward East St. Louis. There are many law-abiding people there who have their backs against the wall who must risk breaking the law to protect themselves. They should be allowed to protect themselves."
And some top metro-east lawmen agree. They urge that a law be adopted in Illinois to make it legal for qualified persons to pack a handgun. Illinois and Wisconsin are the only two states to entirely ban concealed firearms.
St. Clair County Sheriff Mearl Justus, Madison County Sheriff Robert Hertz and Belleville Police Chief Bill Clay all said they would support a concealed-carry law for trained persons who could pass an extensive background check.
The issue of pushing the state legislature to adopt a concealed-carry law for qualified persons is gaining momentum in Southern Illinois and the metro-east, King said. On June 18, more than 250 people jammed the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Fairview Heights to hear speakers, including Justus, talk in favor of such a law.