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Illinois House approves concealed carry bill opposed by governor

May 24, 2013 at 09:48 PM

The State Journal-Register

Concealed-carry legislation that would wipe out all local municipalities’ firearm ordinances got the Illinois House’s stamp of approval Friday, while high-ranking Chicago Democrats vowed to fight against it in the Senate.

The measure passed by an 85-30 margin with all Springfield-area lawmakers voting “yes.” See the roll call.

After the vote, Senate President John Cullerton said he “violently” opposes the portion of the bill that erases all other gun-control ordinances, including Chicago’s assault weapons ban and its firearm and ammunition tax.

Cullerton described the provision as an “overreach” by the National Rifle Association to erase all gun laws in Illinois, even those unrelated to concealed carry.

“I’m going to try to defeat the bill, and we’re going to have a caucus on it on Monday,” Cullerton said.

His plan is to lift out some of the more controversial provisions in an alternative Senate bill, such as requiring a special endorsement from Chicago police to carry in Chicago, and pattern it to reflect the concealed-carry portions of the House’s bill.

The House’s plan, backed by Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, pre-empts home-rule, meaning Illinoisans would be subject to a single set of rules regardless of where they live.

June 9 deadline

With only a week left in the scheduled spring session, the face-off between the two chambers comes as a court-ordered, June 9 deadline for action nears.

Madigan, a longtime gun-control advocate, said he believes the House proposal is a “good, sound” response to the court decision.

Madigan’s change in position, he said, stems from the House testing preliminary votes last month on two concealed-carry bills: an NRA-endorsed bill that fell seven votes shy of the 71 supermajority needed to pre-empt home-rule, and an “anti-gun” bill that received 31 votes when it needed 60 to pass.

“The vote counts are very telling,” he said, noting that both sides had a chance to see how their proposals would fare and the more permissive bill won out.

Diversity cited

During Friday’s debate, which lasted more than two hours, a handful of Chicago-area Democrats argued the latest House bill doesn’t take into consideration the gun-culture diversity throughout the state.

The measure bars the 200-plus home-rule municipalities, including Springfield, from enacting guns laws more restrictive than those outlined in the bill without legislative approval.

“Home-rule exists because our communities are different, because we’re a big state with a great deal of regional diversity. There is no reason to take out local laws that are related to other gun-related issues,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, argued against creating a “patchwork” of rules too confusing for concealed-carry permit holders in the state.

Illinois having one, uniform law is a concept backed by the NRA. But the special interest group has not publicly taken a stand on Phelps’ compromise bill.

“The idea somehow that the NRA is neutral on this is like saying there’s a fox neutral on appropriation to defund henhouse security,” said Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn are all opposed to the bill, with Quinn vowing to fight against it in the Senate.

“We need strong gun-safety laws that protect the people of our state. Instead, this measure puts public safety at risk,” Quinn said in a prepared statement.

Lauren Leone-Cross can be reached at 782-6292.

How it would work

Illinoisans would need to have a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification card — a prerequisite unique in Illinois for purchasing a weapon — before they could even apply for a five-year concealed-carry permit, which would cost $150, up from $100 previously.

The Illinois State Police, which is responsible for issuing concealed-carry permits, would receive $120 of that. Another $20 would go into a special fund to improve reporting of mental health records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that state police use to approve, deny or revoke FOID cards. Another $10 would go to the State Crime Labs to ease a backlog of investigations.

Local law enforcement would be able to object to any application based on a person’s arrest record and/or a belief that the person could be a danger to themselves or the public.

The objection would be submitted to a newly created seven-member licensing review board that investigates further to make a final determination. An appeals process would be available if the applicant disagrees with the board’s decision.

The board, an idea presented by House Speaker Michael Madigan, would consist of a federal judge, two attorneys, three FBI agents and one mental health expert — all appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Guns would be banned from public gatherings, amusement parks, zoos and museums, libraries, playgrounds, universities and colleges, state and federal buildings, and sporting events.

They would also be barred from public transit, a ban insisted on by Chicago-area lawmakers. People could still carry the weapon while riding if it’s unloaded and put away in a backpack or other carry-on bag.

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