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Illinois lawmakers pass final conceal-carry law in nation

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois became the last state in the nation to allow public possession of concealed guns as lawmakers rushed Tuesday to finalize the law ahead of a federal court’s deadline.

DeKalb-area lawmakers joined their colleagues in overriding the changes Gov. Pat Quinn made to the bill they approved more than a month ago. Even some critics of the law argued it was better to approve something rather than risk the courts allowing virtually unregulated concealed weapons in Chicago, which has endured severe gun violence in recent months.

That was the argument voiced by state Sen. Kwame Raoul, said fellow Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon. Bivins worked with the Chicago Democrat on concealed-carry negotiations earlier this year.

“He was supportive of the governor’s amendatory veto, but problem is – if we don’t do something today, it goes to open carry,” Bivins said.

The Senate voted 41-17 in favor of the override Tuesday afternoon after the House voted 77-31, margins that met the three-fifths threshold needed to set aside the veto. Quinn had used his amendatory veto authority to suggest changes such as prohibiting guns in restaurants that serve alcohol and limiting gun-toting residents to carrying one firearm at a time.

“The time for those suggestions would have been during the negotiation process,” said state Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley, “not after an agreement has been reached.”

The law as approved by the legislature permits anyone with a Firearm Owner’s Identification card who has passed a background check and completed 16 hours of gun-safety training – the most required in any state – to obtain a concealed-carry permit for $150.

State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said the law levels the playing field between residents and criminals, as criminals won’t know who is carrying a gun and who isn’t.

“The criminals don’t know which ones they are,” Syverson said. “They don’t know who in that location is carrying or not carrying. It’s going to level the playing field and make the community safer for those who are carrying and not carrying.”

The Illinois State Police would have six months to set up a system to start accepting applications. Spokeswoman Monique Bond said police expect 300,000 applications in the first year.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that it was unconstitutional for Illinois to ban concealed carry. The court gave state officials until June 9 to rectify the shortfall, and later extended that deadline by a month.

With the negotiated law, gun-rights advocates got the permissive law they wanted, instead of a New York-style plan that gives law enforcement authorities wide discretion over who gets permits. In exchange, Chicago Democrats repulsed by gun violence got a long list of places deemed off limits to guns, including schools, libraries, parks and mass transit buses and trains.

But one part of the compromise had to do with establishments that serve alcohol. The law will allow diners to carry weapons into restaurants and other establishments where liquor makes up no more than 50 percent of gross sales. One of the main provisions of Quinn’s amendatory veto was to ban guns in businesses that serve any alcohol.

A former sheriff, Bivins said he also wanted to see prohibitions in all establishments that served alcohol.

“In the process, you don’t get everything you want. Nobody did,” Bivins said, highlighting the different compromises that were made to bring the bill forward.

Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, gave a nod to Quinn’s wishes by putting before his caucus new legislation that incorporated the changes Quinn preferred. Those changes passed the Senate, but failed to get a supermajority in the House.

• The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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