Opposing sides of concealed-carry legislation in Illinois gave testimony Tuesday focusing on whether such gun permits should be issued to anyone who meets certain requirements or whether there should be a case-by-case review of applications.
The Illinois House's judiciary committee heard the testimony during a hearing in Springfield on gun safety.
Two House members from the metro-east are on the committee: Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, and Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon.
The hearing was the first of two scheduled on the issue. The second is Friday in Chicago.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, requested the hearings.
The legislature is weighing how to deal with a federal court order, which struck down the state's ban on the concealed-carry of weapons.
The federal appeals court's order set a 180-day deadline for Illinois to craft a law allowing concealed-carry.
Hoffman asked one witness, National Rifle Association lobbyist Todd Vandermyde, what would happen if the legislature did nothing.
"What are the practical realities that we, as a committee, are facing, and what are the practical realities we in Illinois are facing?" Hoffman asked.
Vandermyde said the state's statute on unlawful use of weapons, which covers various gun offenses, would be declared void.
He said the 180-day deadline expires in early June.
"This isn't like pensions, that you can kick that can down the road forever," Vandermyde said.
He said without the statute on unlawful use of weapons declared void, and no concealed-carry law in place, it essentially would allow anyone to carry any type of weapon, at any time in any place.
"You will have very few restrictions on where you can go," Vandermyde said. "I think a lot of things happen, and I don't think a lot of those things are necessarily good."
Gun-rights advocates testified that Illinois' concealed-carry law should be a "shall issue" law, meaning anyone who meets certain qualifications would be allowed to get a permit.
Gun opponents testified that it should be a "may issue" law, which would allow local authorities, such as a county sheriff, to deny an applicant's permit even if the applicant has an otherwise clear background.
Vandermyde said some states that have "may issue" laws grant permits to just the wealthy, the connected or celebrities. Vandermyde said he thinks the court has defined the carrying of weapons as a right, and "some bureaucrat" should not be allowed to "go eeny, meeny, miny, moe and dispense it out"
He added: "I don't think you can square that kind of a law with what the court has just written. It's either a right, or it's not."
Witnesses who argued for a "may issue" law included Mary Kay Mace, the mother of the youngest victim killed in a massacre at Northern Illinois University.
Mace is the mother of 19-year-old Ryann Mace of Carpentersville, one of five students killed on the DeKalb campus in February 2008 by Steven Kazmierczak, a former NIU graduate student with a history of mental illness who nonetheless was able to buy weapons legally.
"Many local law enforcement officials in smaller and rural areas know their citizens personally. These local officers are well aware of who stumbles out of the bar after having imbibed too much," Mace said. "... These local officers know which of their citizens is a hothead who menaces his or her spouse."
Kay quoted Thomas Jefferson during his questioning of witnesses, saying a citizen "is only a citizen when he's armed, and when he's not, he's a subject."
Kay also asked if the situation of a small woman being attacked by a large man would not be "a good example of where carry is really important?"
Lee Goodman, of Stop Concealed Carry Coalition, said legislation can't be based on "just individual experiences."
He also said citizens cannot "go backward" and not depend on society and government for protection.
Paul Castiglione, of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office asked the committee to include in the legislation a requirement that people must report lost or stolen guns, or face criminal prosecution.
He said the requirement is needed to "keep track of what guns are out there."
Vandermyde was asked during his testimony why Cook County and Chicago always favor restrictions on guns.
Vandermyde said he thinks politicians there like to make guns "the boogeyman" because they can't solve the city's other problems, such as poor schools, unemployment and other social ills.
Vanlinda Rowe of IllinoisCarry was among witnesses who testified in favor of a "shall issue" law.
"We cannot ban violent criminals. We cannot ban mental illness," Rowe said.
"We can't keep drawing imaginary circles around our communities, around our schools, declaring that they are gun-free zones, and then pretending that the violent criminals and mentally deranged won't cross that line and harm our children."
Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, reminded the panel that the state's gun industry employs about 17,000 people, and Illinois can't afford to lose those jobs.