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Taking 'the first steps' after concealed-carry bill

Illinois lawmakers barely finished voting to override Gov. Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto of their concealed-carry bill Tuesday when constituents were calling to ask when they could apply for permits, said state Rep. Tim Schmitz, R-Batavia.

“We are just getting through the first steps,” said Schmitz, who voted both for the original bill and to override the veto. “We’ve got six months to get the rules in place. We are not even looking [for it] until 2014.”

Lawmakers acted Tuesday, the last day before a federal court ruling was to invalidate the state’s total ban on carrying concealed weapons in public.

House and Senate lawmakers in special session rejected Quinn’s proposed changes and passed their compromise bill with a veto-proof, three-fifths majorities, making Illinois the last state to pass concealed-carry legislation.

The original House Bill 183 passed, 89-28, in the House and 45-12, with one present, in the Senate.
The override passed, 77-31, in the House and 41-17 in the Senate.

The new law calls for training and background checks for those who wish to carry a concealed firearm and pre-empts all local ordinances affecting concealed firearms and ammunition.

These include registration, licensing, possession and transportation for those with a concealed-carry license.  

Applicants do not have to show a need to carry, but must undergo 16 hours of training. Veterans will receive eight hours of training credit, as will those applicants who have taken hunter safety courses.
Applicants must pay a $150 application fee, and a license will be good for five years.

The bill specifies places a firearm cannot be carried, including schools or child care facilities, bars, hospitals, government buildings, airports and sporting events.

It prohibits carrying firearms under the influence of drugs or alcohol and outlines penalties for those who are found to be under the influence. It also outlines mental health standards and reporting procedures.

While the new state law gives itself six months for the Illinois State Police to set up rules, Mary Shephard and the Illinois State Rifle Association filed a motion for an injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois asserting that any delay is unconstitutional and that concealed right to carry should be allowed immediately.

State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, said in a statement that the process will take months to implement because the Illinois State Police must write rules and regulations for the new law before citizens can take the required 16 hours of training and apply for concealed-carry permits.

Oberweis’ statement acknowledges that the state’s lawmakers had “wide-ranging opinions about concealed-carry,” but worked together on a compromise.

In addition to Schmitz and Oberweis, other local lawmakers voted yes for both the original bill and the override: State Reps. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, Michael Fortner, R-West Chicago, and Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley.

Also, State Sens. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, and  Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, voted yes.
Hatcher said the law will make everyone safer.

“The value of concealed carry is that nobody knows who has a gun, and then everyone is a little safer,” Hatcher said. “The bad guys are a little less likely to go after someone if they don’t know if they are armed or not.”

Hatcher added, with Illinois being the 50th state to enact a concealed-carry law, “We had the advantage of 49 other prototypes to look at.”

Chapa LaVia said the state was forced to enact the law because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state’s ban was unconstitutional.

“We’ve been working on a version of it for 12 years,” Chapa LaVia said. “I felt it was a happy compromise where neither side got everything they wanted.”

McConnaughay said in a statement that the bill “was the result of months of negotiations.”

“While it’s far from a perfect piece of legislation, it does the most of any proposal we’ve seen to ensure proper safety precautions while guaranteeing our Second Amendment rights,” McConnaughay said.

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