SPRINGFIELD -- The number of people licensed to own guns in Illinois increased 6.1 percent last year, according to new figures from state police.
More than 78,000 licenses were issued in 2011 and nearly 1.4 million people had firearms identification cards as of Jan. 1, 2011, compared to more than 1.3 million on Jan. 1, 2010, The Pantagraph in Bloomington reported Wednesday. Illinois residents must have a card to possess or purchase firearms.
"That is a pretty big increase," said Mark Walsh, campaign director of the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Walsh attributed the increase to the end of Chicago's handgun ban in 2010.
Democratic state Rep. Brandon Phelps of Harrisburg said the increase may have come after concealed-carry legislation was approved in bordering Wisconsin.
"That may have gotten people thinking Illinois will be next," Phelps said.
Phelps sponsored a proposal last year that would have legalized concealed weapons in Illinois. However it failed passage in the Illinois House, and Gov. Pat Quinn had said he would veto the measure. Currently only Illinois and the District of Columbia prohibit the concealed carrying of weapons.
Todd Vandermyde, the National Rifle Association lobbyist in Illinois, said the concealed-carry issue along with economic instability may be the cause for the increase.
"You can't put it on any one issue," Vandermyde said.