Tuesday, March 19, 2013

House and Senate take different approaches on concealed carry

By Jamey Dunn

While the Illinois House debates gun control issues each week on the chamber’s floor, the Senate is trying to tackle the issue in a more low-key fashion.

The House today rejected several amendments that would apply to the concealed carry of weapons in public. A federal court has given the state until June to approve concealed carry legislation. Today, House members voted down provisions that would require those with concealed carry licenses also to hold $1 million in liability insurance, limit licensees to carrying a single gun and require concealed carry applicants to complete training with the gun they plan to carry. The chamber approved a couple of amendments, including one that would ban guns in bars.

Republicans continue to voice frustration at the process, which has been dubbed a Weekly Order of Business. Under the process, amendments go directly to the floor for debate instead of being approved by a committee. The House is using a similar method to consider potential changes to public employee pensions.

The House has voted over the last few weeks to adopt several amendments relating to concealed carry or gun control to House Bill 1155 but has not passed a bill to the Senate dealing with either issue. Republicans have bemoaned the process, calling it a political game.

“What’s the end game? What are we doing here? Politics?” asked House Minority Leader Tom Cross when he stood up on the floor to rail against the process last week. “This is a joke. We’re all sick of it.”

But some House members say the approach is helping to sort through a large number of proposals on a politically difficult topic. “If the goal for the gun debates is to see what there’s support for in the chamber, then we’re accomplishing that goal. Obviously there’s things that pass and things that don’t, and that’s I think informing the ultimate goal,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat.

The Senate is working to address concealed carry, too — just a little more quietly. Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul, who is working in his chamber to negotiate a concealed carry bill, says he is paying attention to the process in the House. However, he says votes such as those today do not mean any of the provisions that are up for consideration are off the table. “I don’t know how real those roll calls are. You don’t construct a bill by issues in isolation. And any bill that deals with an issue like this, if you vote in favor of it, there’s probably going to be some stuff in the bill that you don’t like,” he said. “Certainly, there could be an element that may be a deal breaker, and we’ll certainly look at what the House has done with some of these roll calls, but I don’t think they’re determinate by any means.”

Raoul said he and Dixon Sen. Tim Bivins, who was tapped by Republican legislative leadership to take up concealed carry, are working to try to find a bill “that can pass and can deliver to the citizens of the state of Illinois, with varying views, a gun public policy that’s acceptable.” According to his staff, Bivins is ill today and not available for comment. He was excused from legislative session today.

Raoul said he and Bivins are meeting with members of the Senate and looking to find common ground. “This debate in the past has been a very polarized debate, with the gun control groups on one side and the [National Rifle Association] on the other, and I think the vast majority of citizens in the state of Illinois are caught somewhere in the middle. And that group in the middle is the one that we’re trying to satisfy with the proposal coming out of the Senate,” Raoul said.

He said he hopes to have a resulting piece of legislation long before the spring legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on May 31. “I don’t anticipate taking a vote anywhere near the last week of session. I’m working to get a bill as soon as possible.”


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