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Editorial: A fair draw on guns

Kwame Raoul

Kwame Raoul

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Updated: June 18, 2013 8:12AM

No one is happy with a bill permitting the concealed carrying of weapons that passed out of the Illinois Senate Executive Committee Thursday by a 10-4-1 vote.

But the bill — the result of a months-long effort by state Sen. Kwame Raoul to find a middle ground — is the best option on the table for resolving this issue. It could come to a vote as early as Friday in the Senate, and the vote is expected to be close.

Illinois now is the only state without a ban on concealed carry, and last December a federal appeals court gave the state until June 9 to enact a law permitting it. If the Legislature ends up in a stalemate — which some people consider likely — the issue will be remanded to the district federal court, and no one can be sure what that court will do. Another option is that Attorney General Lisa Madigan could appeal the court ruling, but that, too, leaves the issue in the hands of the courts.

At least the Senate bill requires applicants for concealed carry permits to pass a background check and get training. It’s estimated 300,000 permits will be issued if a concealed-carry law goes into effect, so those are important safeguards. The bill also would ban loaded weapons in schools and hospitals and on public transit. It would require a seller to verify that a buyer’s Firearm Owners Identification Card is still valid, which requires only a simple call to a special State Police number.

Other safeguards include strengthening mental health reporting requirements and requiring gun owners to report a lost or stolen gun within three days of realizing it is missing.

To balance the interests of Downstate, where concealed carry support is strong, with those of the Chicago area, the bill would give the higher population areas some additional protections against misuse of concealed carry. It would require Chicago applicants to be endorsed by the police superintendent, and it would give Cook County and home-rule communities a six-month window to list additional areas where concealed carry would be permitted.

Even if the bill passes the Senate, it still must go to the House, where stronger regional political divisions may doom it. But if nothing passes, people on both sides of the issue may find they are even more unhappy with what the courts do.

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