By Jamey Dunn
Gov. Pat Quinn had harsh words for lawmakers today as he revealed his proposed changes to a compromise concealed-carry bill lawmakers approved in May.
“I think this is an example of a situation in Illinois where the legislature passed a bill in a hurried way at the inspiration of the National Rifle Association, contrary to the safety of the people of Illinois,” Quinn said today at a Chicago news conference. “Fortunately our Constitution — adopted by the people in a referendum — gives the governor an opportunity to propose important changes that protect the public safety.”
A federal court overturned the state’s ban on concealed carry of firearms and gave lawmakers until early June to pass a bill regulating carry in the state. Both legislative chambers approved House Bill 183 on the last day of the spring session. Attorney General Lisa Madigan sought an extension of the deadline to give Quinn time to review the bill. Illinois now has until July 9 to put a carry law in place.
House sponsor of the bill Rep. Brandon Phelps has moved to override Quinn’s changes, and the House plans to begin session at 11 a.m. on July 9 to consider the veto. “He just put one more hurdle in there before the July 9 deadline that we’re going to have to overcome,” Phelps said. Supporters of the original House Bill 183 will need the support of three-fifths of the members of both chambers to reject Quinn’s changes. If all those who voted in favor of the bill the first time around also vote to reject the veto, then HB 183 will become law without Quinn's changes.
“There are serious flaws in this bill that jeopardize public safety of the people of Illinois.”
Quinn said today after he used his amendatory veto power to make multiple changes to HB 183. Quinn's administration also launched a website that describes his tweaks to the bill. He proposed removing a provision that would bar home rule governments from setting future restrictions on guns, such as assault weapons bans. “Home rule is a very important part of life in Illinois. It allows local communities to adopt laws and ordinances that benefit their community, and that principle ought to be upheld.” Quinn said the provision is unrelated to concealed carry. “This provision was inspired by the National Rifle Association; it has nothing to do with concealed carry. It’s part of their agenda, no doubt about it, but we don’t need the NRA telling us how to keep people safe in the state of Illinois and our local communities.”
Phelps, a Harrisburg Democrat, said the prohibition on future ordinances is meant to keep local laws from springing up after carry goes into effect. He said that if that occurs, gun owners would likely not know what each locality had passed and might inadvertently break laws as the travel in Illinois. “We do not believe in a patchwork of laws when you are traveling from town to town in the state. The average, law-abiding gun owner is not going to know when driving through those towns what’s expected of him or her.”
Home rule units that do not have bans on assault weapons would have 10 days after the bill becomes law to enact such a ban. “Those home rule municipalities have had forever to pass some form of assault weapons ban,” Phelps said.
He took issue with the governor characterizing the bill as a product of the policy desires of the NRA. Phelps has worked closely with the NRA on previous versions of concealed carry, even sponsoring legislation drafted by the organization in the past. But he says HB 183 is a compromise bill that was worked out by lawmakers without interest groups at the table. “The NRA was never in the meeting. They don’t necessarily like the bill. There’s some things they like in there, and there’s some things they don’t like. There’s some things the city of Chicago likes and some things they don’t like. That’s how you get a compromise.” The NRA was neutral on the legislation and avoided making public comments. However gun control advocates noted that the group is rarely mum on any legislation concerning firearms, let alone one of the most important gun-related measures in recent history.
Quinn’s changes would limit those with a carry license to carrying one gun and one ammunition clip that holds no more than 10 rounds. The bill as written would allow licensees to carry as many guns and rounds as they wanted.
Under HB 183, business owners who do not wish to allow guns on their property would be required to post a sign. Quinn wants the law to be the other way around. “The presumption ought to be that no guns are allowed in these places, and if the [property] owner wants to have guns, then they should have to have a sign that says, ‘Guns are welcome here.’ It shouldn’t be a burden on private property owners to put a sign otherwise.” Quinn was critical of wording in the bill that allows for carrying guns that are “mostly” concealed. “This isn’t concealed at all,” he said. He proposed changing the wording to clarify that weapons must be fully hidden from view.
The governor also wants to strike a provision that would allow gun owners to keep their firearms locked in their cars if their employers do not allow guns on site. Quinn said that employers should be allowed to ban guns anywhere on their property to reduce the potential for workplace violence. Quinn’s rewrite would also ban the carry of guns in any establishment that serves alcohol. HB 183 only bans weapons in establishments where alcohol makes up half of the gross sales. “Guns and alcohol don’t mix, and I think it’s very important that the legislature understand that message from the people of Illinois,” he said.
Both of the last two issues were provisions that gun control advocates vocally opposed in HB 183. They applauded Quinn’s move today.
Coleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said her organization accepted the court ruling and tried to work with lawmakers to get “comprehensive” carry regulation. But she said that the process did not result in a satisfactory bill. “A flawed bill was passed. Thankfully, our state’s top elected official, Gov. Quinn has our back.” She said that SB 183 “goes too far,” but Quinn’s proposed changes would alleviate most of her group’s concerns with the bill.
Phelps has already filed the paperwork to override Quinn’s veto, which he dismissed as a political move. “This is 100 percent political pandering to one area of this state, Cook County and Chicago. That’s all he’s doing. He’s totally disregarding the General Assembly.” He said the governor has refused to take his calls since the bill passed. “That just shows you how much he thinks of the General Assembly,” Phelps said. “I thought maybe out of respect of each of the bill’s sponsors [he would] to try to work something out.” Phelps said Quinn should have signed the bill and then presented his own legislation with any changes he thinks are needed.
Both Phelps, and Sen. Gary Forby, the Senate sponsor of the bill, are confident that lawmakers will vote to override Quinn’s veto next week. Quinn has also threatened to call lawmakers back for a special session to take up pension reform, so there may be more than one session day next week. “This doesn’t come as a shock to anyone. We knew this governor was going to make this political. If he had concerns about the bill, maybe he should have been more involved when lawmakers spent months working on it. Instead, he makes major changes to the bill after it passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities. Just doesn’t seem very democratic to me,” said Forby, a Benton Democrat.
Quinn today reiterated his opposition to allowing concealed carry in the state at all. “I felt that [court] ruling was wrong then; I still feel it’s wrong. It’s not been appealed.”
Attorney General Lisa Madigan still has the option to appeal the ruling, but a statement from her office today said that she plans to wait to see what lawmakers do with the veto. “That's the last step in the legislative process after the governor amendatorily vetoes a bill. Our office will continue to monitor the progress on the legislative front before making a final decision about the state’s legal options.”
Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul, who worked on the negotiations surrounding concealed carry, said he supports many of the changes that Quinn proposed. However he said they were not politically possible. Raoul in particular supported a ban on guns in all places where alcohol is served, but during negotiations, he acknowledged that he might not be able to get all the components he wanted passed. “I wanted the provision that the governor is suggesting to add through amendatory veto, but it was a deal breaker with regards to negotiations.” He said he has not yet decided how he will vote if the veto override is called in the Senate. He voted "present" on HB 183.
“The governor has within his powers the ability to weigh in. I share some of the sentiment of the governor with regards to some of these public safety issues,” Raoul said. But he said that the end product approved by the legislature had some strong protections, especially when coupled with other gun safety legislation sponsored by Raoul. When lawmakers passed the carry bill, they also approved legislation that requires gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons and gun sellers to confirm that purchasers in private sales can legally own firearms. “I don’t fault him, but we have to realize the reality of the circumstance of what a legislature is and how you negotiate within it,” Raoul said.
Quinn said today in response to critics who have accused him of swooping in with demands at the 11th hour after lawmakers spent months negotiating the bill: “I don’t believe in compromising public safety. I don’t believe in negotiating public safety.”