Senate committee advances bill requiring 'proper reason' for carrying a gun

News-DemocratMay 16, 2013 

Illinois Legislature

The floor of the Illinois Senate.


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— A concealed carry bill that requires a person to have "a proper reason" in order to carry a gun in public won approval Thursday in an Illinois Senate committee.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, passed 10-4-1 in the Senate Executive Committee and now goes to the Senate floor. Senate President John Cullerton said the full Senate could vote on it Friday.

Raoul's bill, House Bill 183, is more restrictive than competing legislation in the House sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, and Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton.

In addition to needing a "proper reason" for a concealed carry permit, the Raoul bill would require an applicant be "of good moral character."

Raoul's bill already would prohibit carrying guns in a number of places, such as at schools, hospitals and on public transit, but it also would allow larger cities to further ban guns in or around other locations. Also, carrying a gun in Chicago would require special permission from Chicago police.

The metro-east's senators on the committee are Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, who is the Senate majority leader, and Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, both of whom voiced concerns about the bill. Clayborne voted in favor of the bill, while Luechtefeld voted against it.

Clayborne said the area he represents is comprised of multiple municipalities, which are close to one another and could have differing rules under Raoul's bill.

"Typically, we commute, on a daily basis, through all those jurisdictions," Clayborne said. "That concerns me."

Luechtefeld said there are more than 200 "home-rule" cities in Illinois that would be able to have their own gun restrictions.

"Can you imagine how patchy that would be?" he said.

Luechtefeld said that aspect of the bill, as well as the fact that it has no provision for Illinois and other states to honor each other's concealed carry laws, would make it easy for an otherwise law-abiding person to "become a felon in a heartbeat."

Raoul's bill would allow local police to file an objection to a person's application for a permit.

Clayborne questioned the definition of "good moral character." He said he's concerned that something as simple as a neighborly spat, which never amounted to anything, could lead police to object to an application.

Raoul responded that the goal of his legislation is to screen out any "tangible threat" to public safety, not to deny permits to people who, for example, might not have attended enough of his or her child's baseball games.

After the committee meeting, Luechtefeld said he heard the Phelps-Costello bill has been revised and might have enough support to pass the House. But he wouldn't be surprised if the legislature is unable to meet a court-imposed deadline to pass a concealed carry law.

"I think that's a possibility. I think another possibility is that we're called back in early June, after we adjourn," Luechtefeld said.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that Illinois' ban on concealed carry is unconstitutional. It gave lawmakers until June 9 to rectify the problem. Gun-rights supporters have argued that if a law isn't passed by then, the court's ruling means people will be able to carry guns in public with virtually no restrictions.

Luechtefeld said Chicago-area lawmakers, who generally oppose concealed carry, want to be able to cast votes against it.

"I think this bill (Raoul's) may pass the Senate, because a lot of people would like an actual vote for a very, very limited concealed carry bill. They need that for the election. So it's still in the game-playing state," Luechtefeld said.

Gun-rights supporters favor a "shall issue" bill such as the Phelps-Costello plan, which says State Police shall issue a carry permit to anyone who meets prescribed criteria. They say other restrictions, such as having to get special permission from someone or having to show a "proper reason" for carrying a gun, tend to create situations where only wealthy people and those with political connections can get permits.

House Speaker Michael Madigan on Thursday said lawmakers will need to take "tough positions" to reach a compromise on legislation allowing the carrying of concealed weapons. Madigan said compromise will be difficult, and the deeply divisive issue will require lawmakers to do things they typically oppose.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has said he favors letting home-rule cities create their own restrictions on carrying guns.

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