Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Senate committee rejects House concealed-carry legislation

By Jamey Dunn

An Illinois Senate committee killed the concealed-carry bill supported by House Speaker Michael Madigan and approved another plan that faces push back from the National Rifle Association. 

The Senate Executive Committee voted down Senate Bill 2193, which the House approved last week. Under the bill, residents who are eligible to own a gun and are 21 or older could apply for a concealed-carry license. The license would cost $150, and applicants would have to complete 18 hours of training, including live-fire range training. Law enforcement officials at any level could object to applications based on “reasonable suspicion that the applicant is a danger to himself or herself or others or a threat to public safety.” A panel appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate would rule on the objections.

But the proposal would wipe out local gun laws, including those not directly related to concealed carry, such as requirements to report lost or stolen guns and Chicago’s ban on assault weapons. Senate Democrats on the committee say that is where the bill goes too far. “To preempt every local government from enacting any law or ordinance related to firearms is a remarkable ask,” said Sen. Don Harmon, who voted against the measure. But proponents say the preemption of home rule powers on gun laws is needed because gun owners who are carrying concealed firearms throughout the state might accidentally break the law while travelling because they do not know about local ordinances. “We don’t think it’s fair for law-abiding gun owners to travel through this state not knowing from one town to the next what’s expected of them. If we have one law, everybody knows, and you’re not making that law-abiding gun owner a criminal,” Rep. Brandon Phelps, the House sponsor of the bill, told the Senate Committee today.

HB 183, which the committee approved today, would preempt home rule, but only on issues related to concealed carry. Sen. Kwame Raoul, who sponsors the bill, said the measure would allow residents to transport their weapons under a uniform carry law throughout the state. But some Republicans on the panel voiced concerns that the ability to transport guns under the bill is not clear. Raoul said he is open to spelling out that residents with carry licenses can carry their weapons, loaded or unloaded, in their vehicles while they drive through the state. “Perhaps we could be more explicit,” he said. Other than the preemption issue, the two bills are relatively similar.

A lobbyist for the National Rifle Association said the group is neutral on SB 2193 but prefers it to Raoul’s bill, which he said he has been lobbying against. “There’s a lot of junk in this bill that we would not normally accept. ...We’re not for it; we’re not against it. But given some of the other things that are out there, there’s enough bread on this sandwich to make it choke down,” said Todd Vandermyde. He said he has asked senators to consider it as an alternative to Raoul's legislation, which he described as “a sandwich that just isn’t right to swallow.”

Benton Democratic Sen. Gary Forby that if he were allowed to bring the measure he sponsors with Phelps to a floor vote, he thinks it would pass. “I counted the votes last week. I think I’ve got enough votes ... and I think a bill like this should be voted on,” Forby said. Raoul said that he thinks that the broad preemption under Forby’s bill is the reason that the NRA is not opposing it. He said he has not yet counted votes on his bill and that he is still open to making compromises or addressing opponents' concerns. A federal court gave lawmakers until early June to pass legislation regulating carry in the state.


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