SPRINGFIELD --- An Illinois House panel today approved a concealed weapons bill that supporters say attempts to walk the fine line between gun rights advocates and gun control supporters, but some Chicago-area lawmakers want a more restrictive bill.
The measure, supported by Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago and Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Downstater who is the leading pro-gun voice in the Capitol, won approval in the Judiciary Committee 13-3. The bill now goes to the House for an expected vote as early as Friday.
The action unfolded as Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, contended the statewide reach of the bill represented a problematic issue because it would invalidate city ordinances that would regulate firearms. That discussion point drew fire in the House panel, particularly because it would knock off the books local laws like Chicago's assault weapons ban.
Cullerton maintained the Natonal Rifle Association's "fingerprints" were all over the House bill because it went beyond just concealed carry.
In the House committee, Phelps said the fight to find a common ground resulted in an "agreement--if you want to call it that." Phelps said the bill would satisfy a federal appeals court's December order that demanded Illinois fashion a concealed carry law by June 9.
"If we don't do anything in this state, we're not going to have regulations at all," said Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville.
Democratic Rep. Mike Zalewski, a former prosecutor from Riverside, called Phelps' proposal "as good of a bill" that can be made with the political and policy differences in the legislature. Zalewski said he supported the proposal but he worried that the broad reach of the proposal would require local gun issues to be brought to Springfield.
But Rep. Scott Drury of Lake County, a former federal prosecutor, said he would oppose the legislation because it gives up too much local control by communities.
Absent from the line-up of opponents were Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, which committee members pointed to as reasons to support the measure.
The Illinois State Police said it did not take a position on Gov. Pat Quinn’s behalf but a police representative said the measure needed a few technical changes so that the agency could register itself as "neutral" on the measure.
Asked about Cullerton's position after the hearing, Phelps said he hoped the Senate would consider the House bill if it passes "because it's the only alternative out there right now."
"I think it's too late for them to try to start up another one because I think it's DOA coming in the House--even if they (senators) did," said Phelps, referring to the term "Dead On Arrival."