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Editorial: Reject concealed gun bill

Updated: June 25, 2013 6:25AM

Does this sound like a good idea in a city struggling with gun violence: Wipe every anti-gun-violence law off the books, and make it impossible to write new ones?

We don’t think so, which is why we shudder at the thought of the concealed-carry bill scheduled for a vote Friday in the Illinois House. The bill not only would allow concealed firearms to be carried throughout the state, but it also would overturn the assault-weapons ban in Chicago and Cook County, as well as other laws aimed at keeping guns out of criminals’ hands. In all, 109 home-rule governments would see their gun laws nullified. Gov. Pat Quinn came out strongly against the bill late Thursday.

For Chicago and Cook County, it would be a disaster. Also gone would be laws requiring lost or stolen guns to be reported, banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, and requiring broader background checks on handguns in Chicago.

Moreover, concealed guns would be permitted in restaurants that serve alcohol — an absolutely foolhardy idea. It’s hard enough to deal with overserved and belligerent patrons who are told they aren’t fit to drive a car. Imagine if they were carrying guns.

Some limits are written into the bill, which is backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, surprising some Democrats who wonder if a hidden legislative strategy is afoot. Guns would be off limits on public transit and in schools, parks, stadiums, zoos, casinos and government buildings. People who served a year or more in prison or who had been in a mental health facility in the previous five years could not get a permit.

But nothing prohibits gun-rights advocates from coming right back to Springfield or to the courts to remove one or more of those restrictions. The record around the nation suggests that’s exactly what they would do. And if they successfully struck down the public-transit prohibition, for example, Chicago and Cook County could do nothing about it.

Also, the bill would allow the governor to appoint a seven-member panel that could overrule any State Police denial of a concealed-carry permit. A future pro-gun governor could make permits available to virtually anyone.

Thursday’s 13-3 vote in the House Judiciary Committee, which is regionally balanced, suggests this bill will make it through the full House, even though it needs 71 votes — a three-fifths majority. If that happens, it will be up to the Senate, which couldn’t agree on a concealed-carry bill of its own, to put a stop to this one. Senate President John Cullerton opposes it, but his spokeswoman predicts a close vote.

The 7th District federal appeals court has set a June 9 deadline for Illinois to enact a concealed-carry law. Rejecting the House bill could mean missing that deadline.

But that’s better than enacting a law that would be a public safety catastrophe.

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