SPRINGFIELD — With Gov. Pat Quinn pressing for tougher gun laws, House Speaker Michael Madigan said today he will hold public hearings about what type of gun proposals Illinois should advance and to deal with a federal court ruling that would allow Illinoisans to carry weapons in public.
The speaker’s announcement comes as Chicago's homicide rate continues to rise and the December murder of 20 schoolchildren and six adults at Newtown, Conn.
“In light of events in recent months in Illinois and in other parts of the country, it’s appropriate and necessary that we give a full vetting to proposed state legislation on this matter,” Madigan said in a statement. “These hearings will provide an opportunity for gun-safety advocates, gun-rights supporters and members of the law enforcement community to offer their views and argue their cases to legislators and the people of Illinois.”
The hearings will be before a House judiciary panel Feb. 19 at the Capitol and Feb. 22 at the Michael A. Bilandic Building in downtown Chicago.
The December ruling by a federal appeals court in Chicago gave lawmakers 180 days to pull together a concealed weapons law rather than striking down the state’s ban outright. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the speaker’s daughter, is asking for a rehearing by the entire U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Quinn used his State of the State address on Wednesday to reiterate his desire to have an assault weapons ban in Illinois and legislation ranging from stricter background checks to prohibiting guns from being allowed in public locations like shopping malls, schools, polling places, bars, libraries and sports stadiums.
Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was shot and killed on Jan. 29, only days after she performed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration weekend festivities with the King College Prep High School band.
Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul, who represents the area where Pendleton was shot, said he also is working to find compromise on various gun issues with Rep. Brandon Phelps, who has long sponsored legislation to allow Illinois citizens to carry concealed weapons.
Raoul said his focus will be on the “major issues” of dealing with concealed weapons and gun trafficking crimes. He made it clear he is less concerned about a ban on assault weapons but would support one.
“Listen, assault weapons ban is a sexy discussion and it’s sexy for politicians to latch onto. It’s an easy one to say, ‘I am against assault weapons,’ ” Raoul said. But he said assault weapons are not usually the guns used in murders from Chicago to East St. Louis, including that of Pendleton.