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Illinois Senate panel advances stricter gun-carry bill

May 28, 2013 at 08:26 PM

The State Journal-Register

A Democrat-controlled Senate committee Tuesday defeated a concealed-carry bill that passed the House last week and approved its own version. The vote was 10-4.

With only days left in the session and a court-ordered June 9 deadline looming, Democratic senators voiced their firm opposition to the House bill that garnered 85 votes, calling a provision that wipes out all local gun ordinances a “dramatic risk” to public safety.

“I recognize some folks don’t see this as a big deal, but to pre-empt every local government from enacting any law or ordinance relating to firearms … is a pretty dramatic risk,” said Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who also serves as the committee’s chair.

Without that provision, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said a compromise is achievable.

“If we get over this super preemption … we have a concealed-carry bill,” he said.

By a 6-8 vote, the Senate panel voted down the House’s gun bill, and instead endorsed its own alternative, sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, that had been stalled due to opposition from gun-rights advocates.

Raoul said much of House Bill 183 is now patterned after the House measure. But, unlike that bill, sponsored by Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, it keeps local gun ordinances unrelated to concealed carry — such as Chicago’s assault weapons ban — intact.

Before his bill went down in defeat, Forby argued that such a law would create a “patchwork” of rules too confusing for gun owners traveling through the state.

“Let’s make everybody in the state of Illinois equal. … This is not a town bill. This is not a county bill. It’s a statewide bill so everybody in the state understands what’s going on,” Forby said. “And the way local control is, nobody will know what’s going on.”

Nearly half of the 220 home-rule units in the state have some type of local gun ordinance unique to its community.

Many Republicans argued against the concept of keeping local gun laws on the books.

Sen. Dale Righter of Mattoon said allowing home-rule municipalities to still govern how people transport weapons or ammunition could pose a problem.

“Wouldn’t that in effect vitiate the concealed-carry right, because as you’re traveling through that municipality … you’re in violation (of that ordinance)?” Righter said.

After Tuesday’s vote, Raoul said he’s willing to rework his bill’s language to address some of the remaining concerns before he calls it for a vote on the Senate floor.

In trying to reach some middle ground, Raoul had already tossed out two of his bill’s more contentious provisions that would have allowed police to object to a permit applicant on the basis of “moral character,” and a New-York-style provision that would have required the applicant to prove “proper cause” to carry a weapon.

Unlike the House plan, which has its own long list of prohibited places like public transit, public playgrounds, schools and state and government buildings, the Senate bill also bans guns from all establishments that serve alcohol for consumption. The House plan only bans guns in establishments where alcohol sales account for more than half of gross receipts.

Illinois State Police Lt. Darrin Clark testified in support of Raoul’s bill, noting that banning guns from alcohol-serving establishments is in line with federal law that bars active or off-duty officers from carrying on their person while consuming alcohol.

The Senate bill also imposes larger penalties than the House bill for those carrying a weapon while under the influence.

In both bills, local law enforcement could object to any permit application based on a person’s arrest record and a belief that the person is a danger to themselves or to the public.

That 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.

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