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Editorial: State’s gun laws should limit concealed permits, protect public

The state is discussing provisions Firearm Owner's ID card. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

The state is discussing provisions of the Firearm Owner's ID card. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 22, 2013 10:29AM

The voices cry out — the families of gunshot victims, the people afraid to leave their homes, the children who have seen too many guns, too many shootings, too much death.

And yet the carnage continues as guns flood into Chicago. A man shot multiple times Tuesday night in West Town. A man shot to death on a sidewalk in Washington Heights Monday night. Two people killed and at least six wounded in shootings last weekend. Bullet after bullet — all since the gun murder of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, and President Barack Obama’s subsequent visit to Chicago last Friday, where the president talked about gun violence.

The Legislature, which will hold a Friday hearing in Chicago on new gun legislation, should seize this moment to enact meaningful measures to reduce the violence.

The people of Illinois are ready. A study released Tuesday by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in Carbondale shows the public supports stricter gun laws and policies. The state’s citizens favored controlling gun ownership over protecting the right to own guns by 59.5 percent to 31.3 percent. Seven in 10 thought we need tougher laws covering the sale of firearms. Only 2.2 percent thought laws should be eased. The mood is changing. Ask state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights), whose support for guns helped force her out of the 2nd Congressional District race, where gun control has become a key issue.

The NRA doesn’t see that. It points to a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in December that Illinois’ ban on carrying concealed weapons is unconstitutional and says it’s time to put more guns on the streets. It wants laws so lax that people can tote firearms onto the CTA and Metra.

That’s no way to make us safer.

Under the appeals court ruling, which has been appealed, the Legislature has until June 9 to write a law permitting some kind of concealed carry. The new law should be carefully crafted to keep concealed guns away from stadiums, college campuses, schools and other sensitive areas. To protect the public, permits should be issued only on a narrow basis, as is done in New York. The mother of one victim gunned down in 2008 at Northern Illinois University on Tuesday asked lawmakers to let local police have a say in issuing permits.

As for the rest of the gun legislation moving through the House — which doesn’t have to be grouped into the same bill — it should create a comprehensive system of background checks, make it easier to track guns used in crimes, ban assault weapons and limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.

Illinois’ system of background checks hasn’t improved sufficiently since Sun-Times reporters in the 1970s got an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification Card for John Dillinger simply by filling out a form and submitting Dillinger’s photo. The State Police receive 70,000 applications a month for FOID cards, but an audit last year showed that only three of the state’s 102 Circuit Court clerks submitted mental health court orders as required by law. When the State Police do revoke a FOID card, only 30 percent actually are turned in, the audit found. If we can have an effective system of VIN numbers and registrations for cars, we ought to be able to do that with guns. A national Quinnipiac poll this month found 92 percent of voters supported universal background checks.

The state legislation also should include a provision similar to one the Cook County Board approved that would require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns. That would make it harder for “straw purchasers” to legally buy guns and sell them to criminals.

The gun carnage has gone on for too long. The state needs better gun laws.

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