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Heated testimony at hearing on state’s concealed carry law

Ronald Holt holds phohis slasBlair Yolan Henry holds phoher sladaughter granddaughter NovHenry AvCurry Friday’s hearing.

Ronald Holt holds a photo of his slain son, Blair, and Yolan Henry holds a photo of her slain daughter and granddaughter, Nova Henry and Ava Curry, at Friday’s hearing.

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Updated: March 24, 2013 6:10AM

A tense exchange between State Rep. Scott Drury and lead NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde during Friday’s Illinois House Judiciary Committee public hearing on what the state’s concealed carry law will look like began with a simple question.

“You’re a reasonable person, right?” Drury asked.

“I think so,” Vandermyde answered.

Drury, a former federal prosecutor, detailed flaws within the Firearm Owners Identification process, listing results from a 2012 Illinois auditor general’s report, which found the FOID program is “limited to protecting the public safety.” It also found just three of 102 Illinois counties were regularly reporting mental health records.

Drury asked whether the NRA would be willing to wait until the system is in gear and prepared to handle concealed carry permits amid current problems within the FOID program.

“Oh, no,” Vandermyde said. “You’re going to implement a law on this by June 9.”

“If you think that we should just wait one more day, so we could have another Mary Shepard, if you think we should wait another day to have another victim…,” Vandermyde said.

Vandermyde capped a more than three hour hearing aimed at allowing speakers to offer suggestions on what Chicago and Cook County’s concealed carry legislation should be. It was marred by cheers and jeers by the audience, with many gun advocates in attendance.

Vandermyde argued Chicago shouldn’t get special treatment: “We think it’s a civil right that deserves a single uniform standard across the state. No matter whether you’re from Decatur, or from Chicago or from Moline to Lansing, it’s a fundamental right.”

Chicago public officials earlier took the stand, adding to the list the suggested places in Chicago and Cook County that should get a concealed carry exemptions.

No guns in elementary schools, high schools, churches, hospitals and City Hall, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.

No guns on CTA buses and trains, CTA President Forrest Claypool reiterated.

“Enclosed spaces are not appropriate for firearms for anyone whose experiencing rush hour crowding,” he said. He said it will provide more opportunities for accidents and disagreements “to escalate into violence” and will incite “fear among passengers.”

When asked whether the CTA would install metal detectors, as airports do, Claypool said the main deterrent from bringing a gun aboard a train or bus would be the criminal penalties associated with being caught.

No guns in bars, sports venues and street fairs, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy suggested.

McCarthy testified to jeers from gun advocates that there is no evidence that shows more guns make people safer. He said concealed carry on mass transit will put people in “greater danger” and that he’s very concerned people under a concealed carry statue won’t be adequately trained.

He stressed the need to control gun trafficking in Chicago, to impose stiffer gun penalties and to emphasize violence prevention for the city’s youth.

Four family members of murder victims spoke one by one about their losses. Ronald Holt, who has become an outspoken gun control advocate after the death of his 16-year-old son Blair Holt in 2009, said there would be far more “blood letting” if concealed carry existed on the CTA bus his son was killed on.

Friday’s hearing follows a hearing earlier this week in Springfield. The committee will meet again next week.

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