Thursday, May 16, 2013

Senate expected to vote soon
on concealed-carry legislation

By Jamey Dunn

The Illinois Senate may vote as early as tomorrow on a bill to regulate the concealed carry of firearms in the state.

A Senate committee approved a concealed carry measure today that would give Chicago police control over who can carry in the city and allow home rule governments to ban guns from some areas.

To qualify for a concealed carry license under House Bill 183, Illinois residents would have to have a valid Firearm Owners Identification card, be 21 years old and complete eight hours of training. Licenses would cost $50 and last for five years. From that fee, $20 would be designated to fix the state's flawed system of reporting mental health records. A recent audit found that county officials were often not submitting such records to the state. The Illinois State Police, which currently issues FOID cards, would issue carry licenses. The state police would be required to notify local law enforcement if a resident of their jurisdiction applies for a license. The local police could object to applications, but the ultimate decision would be made by the state police. The Illinois State Police are in favor of the measure. “Everything that you find in this bill are things that the Illinois State Police can do,” said Illinois State Police Lt. Darrin Clark.

Applicants who plan to carry weapons in Chicago would have to receive approval from the superintendent of Chicago police. Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul, who sponsors the bill, said it recognizes that Chicago is different from any other part of the state. “There’s a density issue that creates a lot more contact between individuals. ... There’s a lot more population, and there’s a lot more opportunity for conflict,” he said. “Our feeling was that the chief law enforcement officer within the city of Chicago, who is most familiar with some of the violence challenges and the law enforcement challenges, is better positioned to determine who is appropriate to carry within the city of Chicago.” 

The NRA came out strongly against the plan. “In our eyes, this is not a carry bill. This is a bill to discourage people and prevent people from carrying a firearm and exercising a constitutional, fundamental right to keep and bear arms for self defense in the public,” said NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde. “You can put lipstick on a pig, and it’s still a pig. And that’s what this is.” HB 997, which was backed by the NRA, fell short on a House vote last month.

Raoul's bill would ban guns from many areas, such as government buildings, bars and hospitals. University officials would decide whether guns could be carried on campuses. The proposal would also allow home rule units of government to add locations to the list of places where guns are not allowed by passing ordinances within six months after the measure goes into effect. Private businesses would also be able ban guns from their premises and parking lots. Raoul said that he was trying to strike a balance between the rights of gun owners to carry and the rights of property owners who may not want guns on their land.

Vandermyde said the bill would create a patchwork of regulations that would be confusing to gun owners and make it difficult to follow the law. “It doesn’t seem like it’s going to work if you allow 200-plus home rule units to set arbitrary restrictions,” he said.

Raoul’s plan would also require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 72 hours of discovering the theft or loss. Gun owners conducting private sales would also have to verify that purchasers’ FOID cards are valid. Vandermyde said that the NRA opposes adding gun control measures to a carry measure. “The carry bill is the carry bill. There’s a court case that deals with this. We ought to deal with that. Separate all the other things and keep it down to a simple concept.”

Senate President John Cullerton supports Raoul's plan. “I want to commend Sen. Raoul for negotiating another tough issue on behalf of our caucus. The framework of this proposal acknowledges the diversity of our state, embraces local control and provides for sensible safeguards,” he said in a prepared statement. No Republicans voted in favor of the measure in committee.

House Minority Leader Christine Radogno voted “present,” saying she had issues with the plan. “My concerns about this bill I think are fixable, but they are definitely major,” she said.

Cullerton said after the hearing that the bill could come up for a floor vote tomorrow. When asked if it has the support to pass, he said: “We don’t know. It’s going to be close.”


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