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Illinois Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, argues gun legislation while on the House floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol Wednesday, April 17, 2013, in Springfield Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Illinois House erupts over ‘may issue’ gun bill

April 18, 2013 at 01:00 PM

The State Journal-Register

Gun-control supporters suffered a setback Wednesday when the Illinois House overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would give local officials control over issuing concealed-carry permits.

Following a sometimes-raucous debate during which the presiding officer threatened to bring in doorkeepers to restore order, the House rejected the proposed amendment on a 31-78 vote.

Sponsored by Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, the amendment was called “may issue” concealed carry because it gave control to local authorities over who could or could not get a concealed-carry permit. People would have to get permission from the county sheriff and show a need for carrying a weapon.

Cassidy said the concept was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court this week when the court refused to hear a challenge to New York’s “may issue” concealed-carry law.

“This model has been upheld by four appellate courts,” Cassidy said in urging the House to adopt her amendment. “We can do this in a way that works for us. I don’t believe that more guns are the solution to our problem in Chicago.”

Cassidy said Illinois, like New York, is a diverse state where people in different regions have different needs.

However, gun-rights advocates argued that a “may issue” law would essentially mean no concealed carry for people living in some parts of Illinois, despite their Second Amendment rights. Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, said that in New York, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of residents have concealed-carry permits. Many of those have been issued to celebrities and people of authority.

“We don’t need bureaucrats issuing these permits to their friends and such,” Costello said.

Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, a proponent of a “must issue” bill, said Cassidy’s amendment was opposed by the Illinois Sheriff’s Association and did not restrict the fees that could be imposed for a concealed-carry permit.

“These are unlimited fees. This could be $1,000 a permit,” he said.

Phelps said he is working on revisions to his concealed-carry bill, including raising the fee to $100. He said Wednesday’s vote shows a “may issue” bill cannot pass in Illinois.

Phelps noted that lawmakers need to act to implement a concealed-carry bill before June 9 to avoid a becoming a concealed-carry state with no restrictions. A federal appeals court has said Illinois cannot continue to ban concealed carry beyond that date.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said that even a “must issue” concealed-carry bill allows permits to be denied to some people. Cassidy’s amendment also prohibited concealed weapons in bars, sports arenas and other places with large crowds.

“If you want Illinois to be the wild west, vote against the bill,” Currie said.

Up to that point, the debate had been calm. But Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, sparked a scene when he labeled as “nonsense” arguments by gun-rights lawmakers that Cassidy’s amendment could be found unconstitutional. With that, gun-rights proponent Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, jumped up and began yelling at Drury.

The presiding officer, Rep. Al Riley, D-Olympia Fields, finally got Bost to settle down and allow Drury to continue.

“We don’t want someone like that carrying a concealed weapon,” Drury said, sparking another arm-waving tirade from Bost.

Other lawmakers then began shouting, despite Riley’s repeated efforts to restore order. Riley finally threatened to bring in doorkeepers to restore calm before the shouting subsided.

Bost later apologized for his outburst.

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527. Lauren Leone-Cross can be reached at 782-6292.

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