SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday that he wants the Illinois attorney general to appeal a federal court ruling that the state's last-in-the-nation concealed carry ban is unconstitutional, a move that would take it before the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Attorney General Lisa Madigan said she prefers to wait and see whether lawmakers craft a new law this spring that would allow the concealed carry of weapons, as the federal appeals court ordered them to do.
A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Illinois' ban last year and gave lawmakers until early June to legalize the practice. Last month, the court declined Madigan's request that the full appeals court reconsider the ruling.
The matter has led to intense hours-long hearings at the State Capitol, where lawmakers and anti-violence advocates from Chicago -- which has seen a spike in violence -- have been pitted against gun rights advocates from less populated and more conservative areas. The matter has placed Illinois in the spotlight at a time when the nationwide debate over gun control has been reignited.
Quinn, a Chicago Democrat who favors strict gun control including an assault weapons ban, said violence has been an "epidemic" in parts of the state and Illinois should be the nation's leader in keeping the concealed carry ban in place.
"The only hope now would be to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court," he told reporters after an unrelated event. "The attorney general ought to take a look at that and pursue that."
Madigan, who previously said she hadn't decided whether to appeal, appeared at the same event and said she thinks Illinois' current law banning concealed carry is constitutional. But she also wants to wait and see what lawmakers do.
"If the Legislature passes a bill, then appealing would not necessarily be something we need to do, because it would become moot," she said.
The disagreement sets two potential political rivals against each other on a tricky issue for Illinois leaders. Madigan is weighing a Democratic primary challenge against Quinn in next year's gubernatorial election but said Wednesday that she had not yet decided whether to run.
Like Quinn, Madigan is a Chicago Democrat who supports the proposed assault weapons ban, but any stand against concealed carry could alienate voters outside Chicago and other urban centers.
While she mulls a campaign, Madigan has appeared on the national stage in connection with a range of issues, including home foreclosures. Her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, is the head of the Democratic Party in Illinois and arguably the most powerful Democrat in the state.
On Wednesday, Lisa Madigan dismissed the notion that waiting for a decision on a Supreme Court appeal was a political maneuver related to her campaign plans.
The intense discussions in the Legislature continued Wednesday. A four-hour hearing saw tempers flaring. Republicans called the process malign, flawed and dilatory. Some visibly exasperated members of the caucus even kicked and pounded their desks when one of their motions was denied.
Since the court's December ruling, lawmakers have considered dozens of amendments dealing with concealed-carry, many of which would restrict where guns could be carried.
Votes on Wednesday in the House dealt with gun ownership in general.
House members passed a proposal that would require owners to register their handguns with the state, but they rejected two other contentious proposals: one that would limit gun magazines to 10 rounds and one that would require psychological testing to get approved for gun ownership.
The handgun registration would be maintained by the Illinois State Police. The proposal would make it a felony to possess or transport a handgun without a registration certificate for each weapon, which would have to be renewed every five years.
It would cost $20 to register each gun. Renewal would cost $10. Registration would include various information about the owner and the gun, including who sold it.
The proposal for psychological testing would have required prospective gun owners to get a certification from a psychologist or psychiatrist, stating the applicant is mentally fit to have a Firearm Owners Identification Card.
Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, opposed the psychological testing, saying it could cost prospective gun owners up to $1,000 to undergo such testing.
Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, added that requiring a costly test would be "making a constitutional right a socioeconomic situation. I have a huge issue with that."
Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, voiced opposition to the 10-round magazine limit. He asked the proposal's sponsor, Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside: "How is it that you feel that we might, as citizens of this country, protect ourselves as the founders thought that we might be able to?"
Zalewski replied: "With fewer-than-10-round clips. With adequate clips that don't exceed 10 rounds."