Local school districts will now be required to conduct safety drills to prepare for a possible shooting under legislation Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Monday.
The measure, which took effect immediately, will require schools to partner with local law enforcement agencies to develop and conduct a shooting drill at least once a school year. It's up to each school whether students must be present for the exercise and parents can choose to have their children sit out.
The law was developed to better prepare school and law enforcement officials following the December shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children and six staff members. Illinois schools already are required to hold several school and bus evacuation drills and severe weather exercises.
"We must prepared not only for acts of nature, but acts of violence," said sponsoring Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago.
Colleges and universities would not be required to conduct the drills, though sponsors of the legislation say that may be the next step. Five students were killed at Northern Illinois University on Valentine’s Day in 2008 when a shooter opened fire in a classroom before turning the gun on himself.
Meanwhile, Quinn said his action on a measure that would allow citizens to carry guns in public is "imminent." Several lawmakers and public officials have said they expect the governor to rewrite the concealed carry bill to make it tougher in an effort to appeal to voters as he prepares to launch a re-election bid. Quinn is a strong supporter of stricter gun control laws.
On Monday, the Democratic governor did not offer specifics. "Stay tuned," Quinn said. "You'll find out very shortly."
Lawmakers were forced to strike a compromise to allow for concealed carry after a federal appeals court struck down Illinois' longtime ban late last year. The measure lawmakers sent to not include a ban on high capacity magazines or assault weapons, gun measures the governor favors.
That sets the stage for Quinn to make changes using his amendatory veto power to write changes into the bill. Lawmakers could take up those changes on July 8. That's the day before Quinn's recommendation deadline for a panel of lawmakers to put forth a deal to reform the state's public employee pension system. It's also the day the federal appellate court has set to lift the state’s concealed carry ban.