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‘Moral character’ clause removed from Senate concealed carry bill

May 18, 2013 at 08:45 AM

The State Journal-Register

Sen. Kwame Raoul said Friday he’ll remove one of the more contentious provisions in his concealed-carry legislation that required permit applicants to show they have “good moral character” before qualifying to carry a weapon in public.

Despite speculation he’d call the bill for a vote before senators left Springfield for the weekend, the Chicago Democrat held off, saying he lacks the 30 votes needed. His bill passed out of the Senate Executive Committee 10-4 on a party-line vote Thursday.

Opponents have cited the “good moral character” provision as too vague and a way local law enforcement could veto anyone’s application.

Beyond that, Raoul said he’s unlikely to change anything else in the bill.

Lawmakers, who are scheduled to be in session until the end of the month, have until June 9 to enact legislation due to a federal appellate court decision in December that struck down Illinois’ last-in-the-nation ban on concealed carry.

Concerns have been raised on both sides of the debate about what could happen if lawmakers don’t reach a compromise by June 9.

Pro-gun supporters say “constitutional carry” will set in and anyone with a Firearms Owner ID card could carry a weapon in public. Gun-control supporters like Raoul say municipalities could then enact ordinances, creating a “patchwork” of laws throughout the state.

“For my part, I will not concede anything that compromises public safety,” Raoul said Friday. “And if that means going to the end, where there’s a stalemate and it’ll be up to local municipalities to enact ordinances, I will feel safe with a situation cities could enact ordinances.”

In Raoul’s bill, Springfield and the other 200-plus home-rule municipalities in Illinois would still have additional say over where people can carry a weapon in public. They would have a six-month window to set up gun-free zones in addition to the ones already specified in the bill.

Meanwhile, amendments could emerge as early as next week on the House’s more permissive concealed-carry legislation, which preempts home-rule authority. That bill fell seven votes shy of approval in the House last month.

Sponsoring Rep. Brandon Phelps, R-Harrisburg, said some amendments are being considered such as a mass transit ban, upping the hours of training required and limiting reciprocity for other states.

Phelps and Raoul agree on one thing: “Constitutional carry” is a possibility if lawmakers do not act by June 9. The “mayhem,” Phelps said, would work in gun-rights advocates’ favor.

“You’re going to have so many lawsuits that are going to be filed. You see, Chicago and Cook County are going to lose those lawsuits,” Phelps said.

“We go off the cliff, that’s OK. Some people in Chicago are thinking it’s a better deal for them if we go off the cliff. Fine, let’s take that chance. We’ve got a court ruling in our favor.”

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

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