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House advances ban on concealed guns in schools, casinos, trains

Illinois Rep. Deborah Mell news conference with Lt. Gov. SheilSimJan. 2 ThompsCenter with marriage equality advocates who urged supporters make

Illinois Rep. Deborah Mell at a news conference with Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon on Jan. 2 at the Thompson Center with marriage equality advocates who urged supporters make their voices heard on Illinois' marriage equality bill. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

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Should Chicago-area mass-transit users be allowed to carry a concealed weapon?

House backs concealed-carry prohibition on public transit

Updated: March 28, 2013 6:52AM

SPRINGFIELD — Chicago-area mass-transit users couldn’t take concealed weapons on public trains or buses under legislation that moved forward in a key test vote Tuesday in the Illinois House during a marathon session on guns.

The amendment by Rep. Deb Mell (D-Chicago) advanced 65-45 with four House members voting “present” on one of the biggest of more than a dozen concealed-carry votes taken in the legislative chamber.

“I’ve been on trains before where there might be a character who’s a little agitated,” Mell said. “Just the thought that people might be pulling out guns and there being a big shootout, I just think that’s too risky.”

Gun-rights advocates argued that L riders and those aboard CTA and Pace buses and Metra or Amtrak trains should have the ability to protect themselves against armed criminals under a constitutionally protected right to bear arms.

“We’re going after the good guys, not the bad guys, representative, and that’s what is so disheartening about his legislation,” said Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica), who voted against her plan.

Mell’s amendment was one of more than a dozen amendments that were considered Tuesday in the House in response to a December federal court decision that threw out Illinois’ prohibition against allowing gun owners to carry their weapons in public.

The votes simply positioned an array of concealed-carry restrictions to be voted on in whatever final handiwork that House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) allows to be voted out of his chamber later this spring.

The House voted Tuesday in favor of amendments to bar concealed weapons in or around schools, child-care centers, casinos, government buildings and stadiums and arenas.

But amendments banning the weapons in amusement parks, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol and at protests, rallies and other public gatherings failed.

The string of votes stirred angry protests from House members aligned with the National Rifle Association, a group of mainly Downstate Republicans and Democrats.

Suburban Republicans and a smattering of suburban Democrats also expressed opposition to an exercise that critics said ignored the state’s major problems while providing fodder for direct-mail attack pieces in the 2014 legislative campaigns.

“Why can’t we do this right?” yelled Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst). “We’re the laughingstock of the nation. We don’t talk about pensions today. We’re not talking about the budget today.

“It’s gun week here in the state Capitol, so we’ll play these games until we can get roll calls that can be used against every body so we can say, ‘There’s Reboletti, he wants guns in schools,’ ” he said. “More nonsense.”

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