By Jamey Dunn
After state legislation to allow concealed carry of guns in Illinois was shot down, some Illinois lawmakers are working at the federal level to open the door to concealed carry in the state.
U.S. Rep. Timothy Johnson is sponsoring a bill that would allow individuals who hold concealed carry licenses from other states to carry firearms in Illinois. “Overturning this prohibition in Illinois is long-overdue,” Rep. Johnson said. “Law-abiding citizens deserve the right to protect themselves. Over 100 years of Supreme Court rulings and the 14th Amendment guarantee that no state can deny the rights and privileges of any citizen. The Second Amendment could not be more clear on this issue. Forty-nine other states understand this and have reasonable policies in place to ensure that only law-abiding people willing to go through authorized safety training are permitted this right. The only reason Illinois is the exception is Cook County. This is not acceptable,” Johnson said in a written statement.
State Rep. Brandon Phelps, a sponsor of legislation that would allow concealed carry in Illinois, said he supports Johnson’s bill. Phelps' bill to legalize concealed carry failed in the Illinois House earlier this year. He said Illinois residents currently hold licenses for concealed carry in other states, and those licenses should apply here. Illinois is the only state in the union that does not allow some form of concealed carry after Wisconsin legalized concealed carry earlier this year.
Phelps, a Harrisburg Democrat, said he is about “five or six” votes short of the supermajority he would need to pass his bill. Because the bill would overrule home rule authority, it requires more than a simple majority. He said if Illinois would allow concealed carry, as opposed to accepting licenses from out of state, it would mean more revenue in the form of fees associated with licensing. “This can bring in a lot of money, people don’t realize that.”
Phelps thinks it is “just a matter of time.” Before some form of legal concealed carry happens in Illinois. He points to several pending court cases on the issues. “If it goes through the courts…it will be wide open.” He said his bill is preferable, because it contains restrictions on eligibility and where weapons can be carried. He said if Johnsons’ bill becomes law, he would back a state plan that would add some restrictions.
“Forty other state’s are not wrong, I believe, and it’s not the Wild West anywhere else,” Phelps said.
However, opponents say that concealed carry would not make the state a safer place. “Public safety has been and continues to be one of Gov. [Pat] Quinn’s top priorities, which is why he is opposed to allowing people to carry loaded, concealed handguns in public places, such as college campuses, parks, malls and our city streets,” said a written statement from Quinn’s office. Quinn spoke out against Phelps' bill during the regular legislative session. He has vowed to veto any concealed carry legislation that comes to his desk. “We must ensure the safety of our neighborhoods and allowing concealed carry does not advance that goal. Our streets need to be safer, and a concealed carry law would put first responders and the public at risk by allowing more weapons – hidden weapons – in public places. Guns must not fall into the wrong hands and our current regulatory system is antiquated – there are large gaps when it comes to identifying individuals who should be prohibited from carrying weapons. We cannot allow those individuals to carry loaded, hidden weapons.”