Illinois lawmakers OK new version of concealed-carry; bill goes to governor

News-DemocratMay 31, 2013 

— A new compromise version of a bill that allows carrying guns in public won approval Friday in the Illinois Senate and the House.

If the bill is signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, then Illinois would join the rest of the country by allowing the carrying of concealed weapons.

The Senate passed the bill 45-12. The House approved it 89-28.

Lawmakers in recent weeks have been tweaking concealed-carry proposals, trying to find a plan this is palatable to downstate lawmakers, Chicago-area lawmakers, House members and senators.

The biggest change with the new bill is that Chicago and other large, home-rule cities would be able to keep their current bans on so-called assault weapons.

Last week, the House overwhelmingly adopted a more permissive plan 85-30. But Senate Democrats voted it down, objecting to a provision that invalidated all existing local firearms ordinances, such as Chicago's assault-weapons ban.

Chicago-area lawmakers, fearful of gun violence, wanted cities to be able to keep their own gun ordinances, so the new version has a compromise: Local governments would be able to retain those rules, but require the enactment of concealed carry. Local governments would also be blocked from approving new rules for transporting guns and assault-weapon restrictions.

Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, who was one of the lead negotiators on the issue, urged House members to vote for the new plan.

"It's a proven fact, statistically, that crime goes down when concealed-carry is implemented," Costello said. "This is a great piece of legislation."

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said the new bill is sensible, and a result of much negotiation.

"This bill is for the common good of all citizens -- those who live in our dense cities, and those who live in our rural areas," Haine said. "It's time to put this issue to rest and let people possess firearms who are trained, who are law-abiding, who will follow the law as outlined in this bill."

Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, said: "This creates a uniform, commonsense concealed-carry program for Illinois citizens. This ensures a citizen's Second Amendment rights and avoids the uncertainty of missing the June 9 deadline."

In December, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Illinois drop its ban on public possession of firearms by June 9.

Like the previous version of the bill, the new one sets up an appointed review 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.

The fee for a license would be $150 for Illinois residents, and $300 for non-residents.

An applicant would have to complete 16 hours of training, the most in the nation. Military experience and a hunter-safety course would count toward the training requirement. Costello said he "really fought hard" to get the military credit, which counts as eight hours.

The new bill's Senate sponsor, Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said carrying guns would be prohibited in "a ton" of places. They include schools, child-care facilities, playgrounds, public parks, amusement parks, airports, libraries, hospitals and on public transit.

Senate Democrats strenuously objected, but carrying would be allowed in bars and restaurants, if the establishment's alcohol sales don't exceed 50 percent of the establishment's gross receipts.

Chicago Democrats got all of what they requested in terms of specific gun-free zones, including mass transit buses and trains, schools, other government buildings, parks, hospitals and street festivals.

But Rep. Brandon Phelps, a southern Illinois Democrat who sponsored the House proposal, was able to keep in that automobiles should be a "safe harbor," meaning a secured gun could be kept in a car, even if it's parked in a prohibited place.

Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, said he feared creation of so-many gun-free zones was "setting up targets for evil-doers."

Business owners would be allowed to prohibit carrying of guns on their property.

All of the metro-east's senators and representatives voted in favor of the bill, House Bill 183.

GUN SALES

The Senate and House also OK'd legislation regulating the private sales of guns and requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns to authorities.

The Senate voted 41-15 on the bill that popped up on the floor Friday for the first time. It came right after the chamber approved the carrying of concealed guns.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, requires a person selling or transferring a gun to verify the buyer has a valid Firearm Owners Identification card.

It also requires lost or stolen guns be reported within 72 hours.

Both measures were part of Raoul's concealed-carry bill before gun advocates protested.

The bill is House Bill 1189.

HIGH-CAPACITY MAGAZINES

The Senate voted down a plan to limit high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Senators voted 28-31. The legislation would have banned magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

Gov. Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton and bill sponsor Sen. Dan Kotowski lobbied for the bill with parents of children fatally shot Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn. The parents of three children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School gave emotional testimony at the State Capitol.

Kotowski says legislation would exempt police, military and shooting competitions.

However, Todd Vandermyde of the National Rifle Association has said he should have the same weapons as police to protect his family.

In a statement Quinn says he's disappointed lawmakers didn't approve "common sense legislation."

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