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Illinois enacts nation's final concealed-gun law

Caption
Illinois Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, speaks to lawmakers Tuesday while on the House floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. The Illinois House and Senate has rejected Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's changes to legislation allowing the carrying of concealed guns on the deadline for action set by a federal court. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Illinois lawmakers overrode Gov. Pat Quinn's amendatory veto of their concealed-carry bill on Tuesday, the last day before a federal court ruling was to invalidate the state's total ban on carrying concealed weapons in public.

House and Senate lawmakers in special session rejected Quinn's proposed changes – they had passed their compromise bill with veto-proof, three-fifths majorities.

All of McHenry County's representatives voted to override the veto, with the House voting, 77-31, and the Senate voting, 41-17. House lawmakers overrode the veto without comment.

"The governor's veto was not policy oriented. It was 100 percent for his own political benefit, so it got the debate it deserved – none," said state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo.

However, the Senate first debated and passed a trailer bill that would incorporate several minor recommendations. That bill passed the Senate but failed to garner the needed three-fifths majority in the House.

Although the bill passed, it likely will not be until later this year at the earliest that concealed-carry licenses can be obtained. The Illinois State Police have six months to set up the permit system and start accepting applications. About 300,000 are expected in the first year, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Lawmakers struggled during the spring session to come up with a concealed-carry bill after a federal court in December ruled that Illinois' total ban was unconstitutional. The other 49 states have concealed-carry bills of widely differing strictness on the books. Both sides – downstate lawmakers who support gun rights and Chicago lawmakers who support gun control – hammered out a compromise bill and passed it May 31, the last day of the session.

The law allows Illinois residents to obtain a five-year concealed-carry permit for a $150 fee after completing a 16-hour training course, the longest of any state. It forbids carrying in a number of locations, mandates increased mental health reporting requirements and allows local law enforcement to object to granting a license to anyone they feel is a danger to himself or others.

Quinn had the bill for a month before filing his amendatory veto July 2, one week before the extended court deadline was set to expire. Calling it a "flawed bill that jeopardizes public safety," he made 11 changes, which included limiting the number of concealed weapons a person can carry to one and limiting the weapon to one 10-round magazine.

He also banned concealed weapons in any establishment that serves alcohol, rather than places where it makes up more than half of total sales, and reversed signage requirements so that concealed carry would be banned in any private establishment unless signs expressly allowed it.

At a news conference late Tuesday, Quinn praised "heroic" lawmakers who supported him and said he would continue pushing for changes.

"It's very, very important that we protect the people," he said. "The legislation today does not do that. It has shortcomings that will lead to tragedies."

Critics alleged that Quinn, who faces a tough primary next year, was pandering to his Chicago base and playing with fire by forcing a last-minute vote hours before the state's ban was set to expire. Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, was among those who said Quinn was absent while lawmakers spent months hashing out the hard-fought compromise.

"It's basically a bill that's been negotiated for months and months ... this was just a political stunt that allows [Quinn] to protect himself against any kind of fallout from those who are opposed to the bill, and unfortunately, that cost taxpayers a lot of money," said Tryon, referring to the $43,000 cost for lawmakers to meet in special session.

Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, likewise noted Quinn should have participated in the process if he felt strongly about it.

"I believe the governor should be much more engaged in many of the issues, especially pensions," Althoff said.

But while McHenry County's lawmakers supported the override, most of them opposed House Bill 1453, the failed trailer bill that incorporated several of Quinn's minor changes. The bill requires people stopped by law enforcement to immediately disclose that he or she is carrying a concealed weapon and expands requirements to place signs in locations where concealed weapons are banned. It also makes the state police, which issues the licenses, the reporting authority for schools and doctors reporting mentally unstable persons.

A provision of the new concealed-carry law gives municipalities 10 days to pass ordinances banning semiautomatic assault-style weapons if they so choose. A proposed ban in Richmond was defeated last week, 6-0, after public outcry. Experts are split as to whether the law allows all municipalities to enact such bans, or only home-rule communities.

Tuesday's override also nullifies a possible appeal by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a deadline extension in the event that lawmakers blew the deadline set by the federal court. Had they done so, there would have been no laws in Illinois as of Wednesday limiting carrying concealed weapons.

What it means

The General Assembly voted Tuesday to override Gov. Pat Quinn's amendatory veto of House Bill 183, its concealed-carry bill, which with the override is now law.

The House voted, 77-31, and the Senate voted, 41-17, to override. Seventy-one votes were needed in the House and 36 in the Senate.

The Senate took three minor recommended changes and put them in a trailer bill, House Bill 1453. That bill passed in the Senate, but failed to garner the three-fifths vote needed in the House.

How they voted

All of McHenry County's lawmakers – Reps. Mike Tryon, Jack Franks, David McSweeney, Barbara Wheeler and Tim Schmitz, and Sens. Pam Althoff, Dan Duffy and Karen McConnaughay – voted to override.

They all voted against the trailer bill except McSweeney, who voted yes, and Schmitz, who missed the vote.

On the Net

You can read House Bill 183, Quinn's veto message, and House Bill 1453, at www.ilga.gov.

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