By Lauren N. Johnson
A bill that would have allowed Illinois residents to carry concealed firearms fell just six votes shy of passage today after a heated debate on the House floor.
Proponents of the bill, HB 148, sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Harrisburg Democrat, said the measure would provide safety for those who obey the law and want to protect themselves and their families.
The bill would have required concealed carry permit applicants to own a Firearm Owner’s Identification card, go through eight hours of firearm education training, and have a background check done of mental illness and criminal records, prior to legally carrying a loaded firearm in the state.
Phelps said many of those who opposed the measure were against guns being carried on the streets. Yet, he said criminals are already carrying guns illegally. “What in the world is wrong with us to be able to defend ourselves and our families just in the split second if there is a confrontation,” said Phelps on the House floor.
Those in favor of the bill again noted that Illinois and Wisconsin are the only two states in the country that do not allow some form of concealed carry. Alton Republican Rep. Dan Beiser pointed to the fact that Illinoisans often travel into states with concealed carry laws likely without even thinking about the issue. "And for those that suggest that this would increase violence or that their safety would be put in harm’s way. I would just ask this question. When you've traveled to other states in this country, that all 48 other states [that have concealed carry] the minute you crossed that border, did you fear for your safety? And I would venture a guess that almost everyone to the men and women of this body would have to honestly say when I boarded that plane, crossed that border, or when I got in my car and crossed that border, I did not fear for my safety."
However, opponents of the measure voiced concern with what would be legal carry zones for gun owners in public places, such as parks and restaurants, and said the bill would have added to more gun violence, particularly in Cook County and the City of Chicago. The bill needed a supermajority of 71 votes to overrule Chicago’s home rule authority and allow concealed carry in the city, which had a ban on residents owning handguns until is was recently overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Phelps said he worked with anyone who approached him to try and find compromise and that he limited the areas where people could carry guns — including college campuses — to ease opponents fears.
Mark Walsh, campaign director for the Illinois Campaign to Protect Gun Violence, a project of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence said, “The discretion that they claimed they worked on would still allow people to have weapons near schools and in the parking lots of universities.”
Rep. Edward Acevedo, a Chicago Democrat, said the bill would have put a burden on police officers and would have potentially endangered them. “Right now, if a police officer sees a person with a gun on the street they know immediately that the gun is illegal.”
He added, “But if the bill becomes law, anyone will be carrying a gun on the street and rather than moving swiftly to protect themselves and us, the officer’s response with a gun will have to delay — that delay can be fatal to that officer,” Acevedo said. Others said the bill would have also strained an out-of-date FOID system, a system run by the Illinois State Police that would have had to process an estimated 100,000 applications for the concealed carry permits in its first year.
Proponents said the bill’s failure was due in large part to strong opposition from some law enforcement agencies, Chicago-based advocates against gun violence and Gov. Pat Quinn, who vowed again today to veto the bill passed and whose administration strongly lobbied lawmakers against the legislation.
Phelps placed the bill on postponed consideration in hope of moving forward with the issue before the close of the session. “We’re willing to talk to anybody,” he said.