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Springfield concealed-carry showdown: Where can gun owners take weapons?

Updated: February 26, 2013 12:28AM

SPRINGFIELD — In a pivotal showdown on guns, the Illinois House plans Tuesday to begin a marathon series of politically divisive votes to lay down limits on where exactly gun owners can legally carry their weapons in public.

The unusual maneuver orchestrated by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), a traditional proponent of gun-control measures, will focus on 27 different tweaks to pending concealed carry legislation bearing his name.

Nearly a dozen different legislators filed amendments Monday to Madigan’s bill, laying out specifically where gun owners could take their weapons once the state answers a December federal court order to end Illinois’ outright ban on carrying concealed weapons.

Some of the places the amendments would bar gun owners from taking their weapons include government buildings, child-care facilities, casinos, hospitals, stadiums and arenas, protest, museums, universities, public transit, amusement parks and churches.

Both sides of the concealed-carry debate also have filed competing measures that say that Illinois State Police “may” or “shall” issue the permits — language that equates to a legislative Grand Canyon when it comes to setting the agency’s power in deciding which gun owners could carry their weapons and which ones couldn’t.

“It gives every member of the House a chance to participate,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said of the unusual approach in debating such a huge array of amendments one by one.

Brown wouldn’t say where his boss is positioned on any of them.

“He’s always been someone who’s sided with folks concerned about gun safety,” Brown said.

Tuesday’s agenda follows two lengthy House Judiciary Committee hearings last week on gun control aimed at coming up with a concealed-carry law by early June, the deadline a federal appeals court set in December for Illinois to expand gun accessibility in public places.

The court threw out the state’s outright prohibition on concealed carry and last week rejected an appeal by Attorney General Lisa Madigan to reconsider its decision. Madigan’s office has not indicated whether it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gun-rights groups see the House speaker’s theatrical tactic Tuesday as an effort to impose the strictest possible limitations to make guns inaccessible in virtually every public place.

“As I read the amendments, the anti-gunners are trying to create a regulatory prohibition that would make it impossible to carry a gun. If you take the list of places they won’t let you carry and add them altogether in your daily life, it would be close to impossible to carry a firearm,” said Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.

“The anti-gunners know they’re on the losing end of this argument, and they’re trying to pass a carry law in name only and do what Chicago did, which is thumbing the legislative nose at the Supreme Court and now the Court of Appeals,” he continued. “They’re trying to structure a ban by regulation.”

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