SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gun owners in the only state still banning concealed weapons would win that right under a plan approved by the Illinois House on Friday, but the governor and other powerful Democrats oppose the plan because it would wipe out local gun ordinances — including Chicago's ban on assault weapons.
The proposal, which passed 85-30, was brokered by House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, as a way to abide by a federal appeals court's ruling that ordered the state to adopt a concealed-carry law by June 9. But the plan has drawn strong opposition, with Gov. Pat Quinn calling it a "massive overreach" because of the way it would curb local firearms regulations.
Chief among those regulations is Chicago's ban on assault-style weapons, which would be stricken from the books. That's a deal-breaker for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who backs tough restrictions to curb gun violence in the nation's third largest city.
"This legislation is wrong for Illinois. It was wrong yesterday in committee, it's wrong today, and it's wrong for the future of public safety in our state," Quinn said in a statement after the House vote.
The legislation is being sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps, a southern Illinois Democrat and ardent gun-rights supporter whose more permissive plan failed by seven votes last month.
Madigan took the rare step on the floor of describing how he had worked against that Phelps plan in April — legislation which still got double the number of votes Chicago Democrats garnered on a more restrictive measure.
"Those vote counts are very telling," Madigan said. "They tell the reason why I stand before you today, changing a position I've advocated for well over 20 years. But that's what happens in a democracy, where there's free and open debate."
He said the state needed one uniform firearms law to reduce the potential confusion for gun owners packing weapons and traveling throughout the Prairie State. There are 220 "home rule" communities which are free from state oversight to devise local guidelines on any issue, including guns. If June 9 comes and goes without a law, each of those municipalities could write its own restrictions, he said.
"The effect of not taking any action would be to open up the possibility that there could be up to 220 different sets of rules on the question of carrying weapons, so that as people attempted to move about the state, they would contemplate the possibility that there would be a change in the rules up to 220 times," Madigan said.
The measure would require Illinois State Police to issue a permit to any applicant who has a Firearm Owners Identification card, completes required training, passes a background check, and pays a $150 fee. But it significantly broadens the places where guns would be prohibited, including mass-transit buses and trains, which was a demand of Chicago Democrats.
In addition to the Chicago assault-weapons ban, it would pre-empt any city or county gun regulation, such as taxes on gun sales or requirements for reporting lost or stolen guns. Phelps and Madigan argue that it would be best to have one statewide law to reduce confusion and have future restrictions get state legislators' approval in Springfield.
But Quinn's office said the pre-emption would jeopardize public safety.
The legislation also is opposed by Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat like Quinn and Madigan. The Senate's plan would only pre-empt local laws by requiring them to adopt concealed-carry laws. Opponents of Phelps' plan note that the only issue that the federal court addressed was conceal-and-carry, not other gun provisions.
The legislation was forced by a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in December that decreed the state's ban on concealed carry unconstitutional. The court gave lawmakers until June 9 to enact a law.
The bill is SB2193
-- Associated Press