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Ill. House approves guns plan opposed by governor

County’s 2 lawmakers vote to OK legislation

Published: Saturday, May 25, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Gun owners in the only state still banning concealed weapons would win that right under a plan approved Friday by the Illinois House with support from DeKalb County’s two state representatives.

The county’s local lawmakers – Reps. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley, and Tom Demmer, R-Dixon – were among the 85 lawmakers who voted for the proposal that was brokered by House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat.

But the governor and other powerful Democrats oppose the plan because it would wipe out local gun ordinances – including Chicago’s ban on assault weapons.

The proposal is meant to abide by a federal appeals court’s ruling that ordered the state to adopt a concealed-carry law by June 9. Pritchard said he was impressed by the fact that there’s no group in strong favor of it.

“We have to do something, and this is probably the best compromise we can have,” Pritchard said.

But the plan has drawn strong opposition, with Gov. Pat Quinn calling it a “massive overreach” because of the way it would curb local firearm regulations.

Chief among those regulations is Chicago’s ban on assault-style weapons, which would be stricken from the books. That’s a deal-breaker for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who backs tough restrictions to curb gun violence in the nation’s third-largest city.

“This legislation is wrong for Illinois. It was wrong yesterday in committee, it’s wrong today, and it’s wrong for the future of public safety in our state,” Quinn said in a statement after the House vote.

“The principle of home rule is an important one. As written, this legislation is a massive overreach that would repeal critical gun safety ordinances,” he said. “I will not support this bill and I will work with members of the Illinois Senate to stop it in its tracks.”

The measure would require Illinois State Police to issue a permit to any applicant who has a firearm owner’s identification card, completes required training, passes a background check, and pays a $150 fee. But it significantly broadens the places where guns would be prohibited, including mass-transit buses and trains, which was a demand of Chicago Democrats.

“They wanted to be able to keep a gun-free zone,” Pritchard said, noting that the prohibitions were among the things that tipped him in favor of the bill.

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps, a southern Illinois Democrat and ardent gun-rights supporter whose more permissive plan failed by seven votes last month.

Madigan stepped in after that failed vote, and the resulting plan would pre-empt any city or county gun regulation, such as taxes on gun sales or requirements for reporting lost or stolen guns. Phelps and Madigan argue that it would be best to have one statewide law to reduce confusion and have future restrictions get state legislators’ approval in Springfield.

The fact that there’s no carve-out for Chicago or Cook County was a big sticking point for Demmer.

“I think that standard really gives people a lot more peace of mind in following the law,” Demmer said, adding that people shouldn’t have to worry about breaking the law simply for driving through a community where gun laws might be different.

But Quinn’s office said the pre-emption would jeopardize public safety.

The legislation also is opposed by Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat like Quinn and Madigan. The Senate’s plan would only pre-empt local laws by requiring them to adopt concealed-carry laws.

Opponents of Phelps’ plan note that the only issue that the federal court addressed was conceal-and-carry, not other gun provisions. The legislation was forced by a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in December that decreed the state’s ban on concealed carry unconstitutional.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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