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Illinois hunting and fishing

Gun owners and supporters participate in an Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day rally March 7, 2012, at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. AP Photo by Seth Perlman.

Clock’s ticking for Illinois leaders to craft concealed-carry bill

December 17, 2012 at 07:10 AM

The Associated Press

CHICAGO — State lawmakers who are bitterly divided whether to legalize the concealed carry of weapons have 180 days to do it, or they may end up with no say in the matter.

“After that period, you and I could strap a rifle on our shoulder and walk down (Chicago’s) Michigan Avenue and there’s nothing anybody could do about it,” said Rep. Brandon Phelps, a gun rights proponent from Harrisburg whose concealed-carry bill failed last year.

The reason, lawmakers say, is that ignoring the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling last week, which threw out the state’s concealed-gun ban, carries the consequence of turning Illinois into a “constitutional carry” state. If that happened, the only thing all Illinois residents would need to carry a concealed weapon is a valid Illinois firearms owner’s ID card.

No permit, no training required.

The ticking clock will create an intense focus on the issue in the legislative session that begins in January, with opponents and proponents arguing over a range of options like those adopted by other states — if the appeals ruling is not stayed by an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Phelps said there are signs of movement and compromise. Since Tuesday’s ruling, he’s received calls from lawmakers in Chicago who have long opposed concealed carry but are asking to be included in crafting a bill.

“That never happened before,” the Democrat said.

At the same time, opponents of concealed carry are sure to cite recent shootings — especially Friday’s rampage at a Connecticut K-4 school that left 28 people dead, most of them children — to pressure for strict controls on who can carry and where.

“It would be difficult to believe anybody could go back to their districts and say ‘I didn’t vote to restrict weapons,’” House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat, said Friday after the Connecticut shootings.

It’s possible that gun control advocates will seek to propose an alternative bill to Phelps’, one that would have the backing of Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who are vocal gun control advocates.

Illinois is the last state in the nation that bans concealed carry. The appellate ruling, which gave lawmakers the 180-day deadline, was a major victory for activists who had vowed to make the state and its ban the center of the national debate on gun control. They believe the ruling gives them broad leeway to craft a bill without tough restrictions.

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