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Conceal-carry bill fails in House

Updated: June 7, 2011 12:38AM

SPRINGFIELD — Giving gun-control advocates a major win, the House Thursday rejected a bid by Downstate gun-rights advocates to permit Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons.

The measure pushed by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) failed by a 65-32 vote, with one voting present. Seventy-one votes were necessary for passage.

“Folks, 49 other states have some kind of carry permit process, and how can they be wrong? And it has not been the Wild West there,” Phelps said before the vote.

“Everywhere this has been allowed to become law, crime has gone down considerably,” Phelps said.

The outcome represented a victory for Gov. Quinn, who earlier this week threatened to veto the legislation. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel also lobbied lawmakers against the measure.

Under Phelps’ legislation, Illinoisans could carry concealed weapons if they had a firearms owner identification card and underwent a firearms-education course.

Permit holders could not have been a patient in a mental institution in the previous five years nor have any felony, violent misdemeanor or drug convictions in the previous 10 years.

Concealed weapons wouldn’t be allowed under the plan at government buildings, courthouses, schools, sports arenas and stadiums, amusement parks, libraries or college campuses.

“This is a common-sense measure,” Phelps said.

The Illinois State Police estimated that 325,000 people would take advantage of a concealed-carry program, which could raise $32 million annually for the state through license fees.

Critics argued that such a program would pump even more guns into crime-infested neighborhoods, pose a serious safety risk to police officers and allow as many as 100,000 people carrying concealed weapons to attend crowded city events such as the annual Taste of Chicago fireworks celebration along Chicago’s lakefront.

“I too like the John Wayne movies. I like those movies about the Wild West, where everybody is carrying a weapon and everybody is shooting at each other. We don’t live in those days anymore,” said Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago), who voted against the bill.

And Rep. Harry Osterman (D-Chicago), a gun-control advocate and the alderman-elect for the 48th Ward, ridiculed how Phelps’ legislation barred guns at the state Capitol yet would allow them in places like Navy Pier or city parks.

“If the intention is for safety, why are we protected here but people around the state aren’t protected? This goes way too far,” Osterman said.

But supporters turned the protection argument around by going after Chicago aldermen, who are permitted to carry concealed weapons, and outgoing Mayor Daley, who fought to preserve the city’s gun ban that was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark ruling involving Morgan Park resident Otis McDonald, who fought for the right to own a gun.

Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Greenville), who voted for the legislation, also needled Daley by citing a report Thursday by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed.

“Daley wants a 24-hour, three-person protection unit not only for him but his wife. Why? Because he doesn’t feel safe. That’s what he wants. He wants to be protected by guns, even though this is the same mayor who stood in opposition to Otis McDonald,” Stephens said.

Using a parliamentary maneuver, Phelps kept his legislation alive for another potential vote, though after the House’s decision he would not commit to when – or if – that might occur.

Contributing: Stephen Di Benedetto

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