Illinois House passes concealed-carry bill

News-DemocratMay 24, 2013 

— A compromise bill that allows the carrying of concealed guns in public won approval Friday in the Illinois House, and now goes to the Senate.

The bill passed 85-30.

The new proposal, which emerged just this week, is sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, and Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton. The two pro-gun rights lawmakers had been pushing a less restrictive concealed-carry bill, but earlier this year that bill fell just short of passage in the House.

Costello, on the House floor Friday, said the new bill "may not be perfect," but is better than a competing and much more strict bill that has been introduced in the Senate. That bill, introduced by Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, would require that applicants be "of good moral character" and have a "proper reason" for carrying a gun. Raoul's bill also would give local police to deny license applications.

"I'm telling you, the governor would love to sign that bill, and, I believe, the city of Chicago would love to push that bill," Costello told his House colleagues.

If the Senate approves the proposal, it would go to Gov. Pat Quinn, who says the bill is a "massive overreach" because it would curb local firearms regulations. He points to Chicago's ban on assault-style weapons, which would be eliminated by the law.

Debate in the House lasted more than an hour.

Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem, spoke of the death of his daughter-in-law, who was murdered while taking a walk on a rural road.

"She went on a walk one Saturday morning, and never returned," Cavaletto said. "I always said maybe if she'd have had a little gun in her pack when she walked, maybe today would be a different story."

The Phelps-Costello bill would create an appointed board that has the final say on whether someone can have a concealed-carry license.

Illinois State Police would be required to issue a concealed-carry license to anyone who meets prescribed requirements. But any local law enforcement agency would have the ability to object to a person's application if there is "reasonable suspicion that the applicant is a danger to self, others, or poses a public safety threat."

An applicant could appeal that objection to the Concealed Carry Licensing Board, a seven-member panel that would consist of three members from Cook County, and four members from outside Cook County. Members would be appointed by the governor, with approval by the Senate, and must be former federal judges, federal prosecutors or federal law enforcement agents.

Other highlights from the proposal include:

* Carrying guns would be prohibited in a number of places, including schools, child-care facilities, playgrounds, public parks, amusement parks, airports, libraries, hospitals and on public transit.

Carrying on public transportation has been a sticking point. Chicago lawmakers feared gun-filled transit trains, while gun supporters argue it's not fair to deny rights to people just because they have to rely on public transportation.

Carrying also would be prohibited in bars where more than 50 percent of sales are derived from alcohol sales. Some Chicago-area lawmakers said carrying shouldn't be allowed in an establishment where any alcohol is sold.

* The license fee for Illinois residents would be $150.

* A non-resident who has a concealed-carry permit from another state could carry a weapon only in his or her vehicle while traveling in Illinois. A non-resident from a state that has substantially similar requirements as Illinois for a license could obtain a non-resident license at a cost of $300.

* Police, doctors, mental health professionals, health facilities, nursing homes and school personnel would be required to report any person they determine poses a clear and present danger to self and others.

* An applicant would be required to complete 16 hours of training, including exercises at a shooting range and a review of laws. No state requires more training. Costello said he's hopeful there will be a variety of ways to satisfy the training requirement.

* Local units of government, including large municipalities that have "home rule," would not be allowed to set their own rules on carrying firearms. That provision would knock down Chicago's ban on "assault" weapons.

* Owners of private property could prohibit the carrying of guns on their property. To do so, the owner would have to post a sign at least 4-inches-by-6-inches.

A federal appeals court ruled in December that Illinois must allow residents to carry concealed weapons by June 9. Downstate lawmakers mostly favor a bill with minimal restrictions, while most Chicago-area lawmakers want tight regulations on who can carry a gun, as well as where a gun can be carried.

Pro-gun lawmakers have argued that gun opponents should want to join them in crafting a concealed-carry bill before the court deadline, because otherwise people would be able to carry guns with almost no restrictions. Another possibility is that local communities could enact their own regulations, creating a patchwork of rules.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, noted that every other state allows the carrying of guns in public, in some form.

"If we're so smart, why do we have a city with the highest crime rate in the nation?" Bost asked.

How House members from the metro-east voted:

* Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton: Yes

* Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem: Yes

* Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton: Yes

* Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville: Yes

* Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, D-East St. Louis: Yes

* Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon: Yes

* Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville: Yes

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