Can you imagine John Wayne packing heat in a fanny pack? Some prosecutors in Illinois are warning that the Duke would get arrested if he tried to get away with such a thing there.

Illinois is one of only seven states that prohibit citizens from carrying concealed weapons. But state law does allow concealed transport of non-functioning weapons. So Concealed Carry Inc., a gun- rights group located in Oak Brook, is pushing the idea that even within Illinois, it's okay to carry an unloaded gun in a fanny pack.

The claim drew enough attention that three state's attorneys in the Chicago area recently held a news conference to denounce it. The exemptions for carrying concealed weapons, says DuPage County state's attorney Joseph Birkett, refer to weapons that are not "immediately available," such as those wrapped in packaging. Since Concealed Carry is promoting specially-designed fanny packs that bear some resemblance to holsters, Birkett insists, "in that situation, a person is all but armed."

Birkett says he's spoken to top legislative leaders who've made it clear that they did not intend to allow fanny packs to be used for transport of guns. "If that exemption were to apply, let the General Assembly say that," he adds. "I think the place where it should be addressed is Springfield."

With that opinion, Birkett is playing right into the hands of John Birch, Concealed Carry's president, who cheerfully admits the whole fanny-pack dilemma is a sideshow he concocted to raise the larger issue of concealed weapons. "We were hoping to get someone to bite on this and get the state legislature interested, and the state's attorneys did that for us."