SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House Thursday night defeated a concealed weapons proposal favored by gun rights advocates, a setback that could spur negotiations toward finding common ground with lawmakers who back gun control.
The legislation represented a signature showdown in the critical gun debate that is in the spotlight this spring because a federal appeals court has set an early June deadline for Illinois to put in place a concealed weapons law.
Under the proposal, guns could have been carried on mass transit buses and trains but banned from taverns, schools, casinos, stadiums, child-care facilities, universities and government buildings, including courthouses, legislative offices and the state Capitol.
Rep. Brandon Phelps, the legislature’s leading concealed carry advocate, challenged his colleagues to vote for what he viewed as reasonable parameters on where people could carry guns in public, who is allowed to carry, who decides whether a person is eligible and how much training should be required.
“This could be our last chance,” Phelps said, saying he had made changes to address numerous concerns of gun control lawmakers. “We keep giving and we keep giving and we keep giving.”
But the Phelps legislation needed to reach a three-fifths level of support because he is seeking to have a uniform state law that supersedes tighter home-rule ordinances desired by Cook County, Chicago and other large cities in Illinois. That meant it needed 71 of 118 lawmakers to vote in favor. The measure got 64 votes, however. Another 45 House members voted against and four voted present.
North Side Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who just one day earlier saw her more restrictive New York-styled gun legislation defeated, contended much more needs to be negotiated to broach the regional divide between hunter rights and the rights of citizens on the dangerous streets of Chicago.
“The only hunting that’s happening in my neighborhood is of young men,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy argued the legislation is written so loosely that a person could “freely carry a concealed handgun” with a detachable high-capacity magazine and laser sight. And she argued against the legislation because even landlords in a two-flat could not ban a tenant from carrying a gun.
"I hope that we're willing to stand up and give moments of silence to all the individuals that are probably going to get harmed as a result of this," said Rep. Will Davis, a Homewood Democrat who argued against passage.
But a leading Downstate Democrat, Rep. Frank Mautino of Spring Valley, argued the bill should be supported because it represented a “meaningful, sensible bill that meets the requirements of the courts.”
Mautino cautioned that neither side of the debate wants to miss the court-imposed June 9 deadline to act. He and other explained that missing the deadline meant even some of the restrictions in the Phelps proposal would be lifted no other law were put in place.
“We need to work together,” Mautino said.