SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois was poised to become the last state in the nation to allow public possession of concealed guns as lawmakers rushed Wednesday to finalize a proposal ahead of a federal court’s deadline.
Both chambers of the Legislature were convening to try to override changes Gov. Pat Quinn made to the bill they approved more than a month ago. Even some critics of the law argued approving something was better than letting the courts allow virtually unregulated concealed weapons in Chicago, which has endured severe gun violence in recent months.
The Senate planned to take up the measure Wednesday, after the House voted 77-31 to override the Democratic governor’s amendatory veto. Quinn had used his veto authority to suggest changes such as prohibiting guns in restaurants that serve alcohol and limiting gun-toting citizens to one firearm at a time.
“There will be a showdown in Springfield,” Quinn told a crowd gathered in Chicago for a bill signing on anti-gang legislation. Afterward he told reporters that lawmakers should examine his changes carefully.
“I don’t think they should override common sense. I don’t think they should compromise with public safety,” he said.
The law as approved by the Legislature permits anyone with a Firearm Owner’s Identification card who has passed a background check and undergone gun-safety training of 16 hours—longest of any state—to obtain a concealed-carry permit for $150.
If approved, the Illinois State Police would have six months to set up a system to start accepting applications. Spokeswoman Monique Bond said police expect 300,000 applications in the first year.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that it’s unconstitutional for Illinois to ban concealed carry. The court gave state officials until June 9 to rectify the shortfall, and later extended that by a month.
Opinions varied about what would have happened had a law not taken effect. Gun supporters said it would have meant with no law governing gun possession, any type of firearm could be carried anywhere, at any time. Those supporting stricter gun control said local communities would have been able to set up tough restrictions.
With the negotiated law, gun-rights advocates got the permissive law they wanted, instead of a New York-style plan that gives law enforcement authorities wide discretion over who gets permits. In exchange, Chicago Democrats repulsed by gun violence got a long list of places deemed off limits to guns, including schools, libraries, parks and mass transit buses and trains.
But one part of the compromise had to do with establishments that serve alcohol. The law will allow gun-toting diners to carry weapons into restaurants and other establishments where liquor comprises no more than 50 percent of gross sales.
One of the main provisions of Quinn’s amendatory veto was to nix guns in businesses that serve any alcohol.
While Quinn’s changes—which include a one-gun limit and a ban on guns in establishments that serve alcohol—have been embraced by Chicago’s anti-violence advocates, they’ve received a cold reception from lawmakers.
Many are upset that Quinn waited a month after receiving the bill to make his changes through the use of his amendatory veto power, and accused of him pandering to voters. Quinn, who is running for re-election, faces some potentially high-profile challengers from his own party.
A bill sponsor, state Rep. Brandon Phelps, said Quinn’s late changes put Illinois at risk of “going off the cliff” and not meeting the July 9 deadline.
“Why would the governor want to put people in that predicament?” the Harrisburg Democrat said. “That’s the problem with what’s he’s doing. I don’t think he understands what he’s doing.”