Monday, April 15, 2013

Supreme Court inaction on concealed-carry limits could affect Illinois legislation

By Jamey Dunn

Top Illinois Democrats say lawmakers should look to New York’s strict concealed carry law as a model when working on the issue in Illinois.

The U.S. Supreme Court today opted not to hear a challenge to New York’s law, which gives law enforcement officials broad discretion when issuing concealed carry licenses and requires applicants for licenses to provide a reason for their need to carry in public. The New York law says the state “may issue” a license to qualified applicants.

Supporters of concealed carry in Illinois are pushing for a “shall issue” licensing system that would require the state to give permits to applicants who meet the requirements set out in the law. But those in Illinois who support a more restrictive approach say lawmakers should take note of the court’s decision today.

 “The New York law dealing with concealed carry is, I think, a model for other states like ours, and that’s something I think that the legislature should take to heart as they go through his process right now of dealing with this issue,” said Gov. Pat Quinn.

A federal appeals court ruled the state’s ban on the carry of firearms in public unconstitutional and gave lawmakers until early June to pass concealed carry legislation. Quinn is calling for bill that would allow for very limited carry. “I think that we need to have very tight restrictions on any kind of concealed carry law in our state. Concealed carry is having a loaded weapon concealed on your person in a public place, and obviously that can be very dangerous. And so, we have to make sure that we have the proper restrictions and limits similar to what New York or some other states like Massachusetts and California have enacted.” He again urged Attorney General Lisa Madigan to appeal the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling on concealed carry.

Madigan said she is still considering an appeal, but that lawmakers should note that the clock is ticking on the court-ordered deadline. “It will obviously influence our continued review of the situation here in Illinois, but everybody who is in the legislature, as well as the governor, should recognize that they’re still under the 180-day deadline imposed by the court, and they need to continue to work on this. If they can come to a compromise on some sort of bill, they should because otherwise, you have this situation where we really don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Madigan said that no matter when she were to file an appeal, there would not be enough time for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. But she said legislators should pay attention to what the Supreme Court did today. “The legislature now can look up and say a ‘may issue status’ is something that at this point is constitutional, and so that should have an impact on the discussions and debates that are going on under the dome,” Madigan said. “What we have now are at least some parameters of what that might be. So we know it can be a ‘may issue.' We’re obviously hopeful that the legislature listens to the court.”

Lawmakers who support fewer restrictions on carry disagree. “It has no bearing on us,” Harrisburg Democrat Rep. Brandon Phelps said of the Supreme Court opting not to hear the New York case. He said he is two or three votes away from the support he needs to pass a bill with a “shall issue” permit requirement,and expects a vote on such a bill in the next few weeks. Phelps, who has sponsored concealed carry bills in recent years, said he is still negotiating some components of the plan, such as how many hours of training would be required for a carry license. “I just don’t think that they have the votes for ‘may issue.’ A lot of people in Chicago, the anti-gun groups, would like to have a ‘may issue’ because it’s more restrictive. But I don’t think a lot people want a bureaucrat or the governor or somebody like that to dictate who gets permits or not.”


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