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Article updated: 4/18/2013 8:04 PM

House rejects NRA-backed concealed carry plan

By Doug T. Graham Mike Riopell

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois House rejected legislation backed by the National Rifle Association that would have allowed Illinoisans to carry a concealed firearm.

The vote brought the national debate about guns close to home for Illinoisans, who have seen this issue debated year after year at the state Capitol with no resolution.

There still isn't one.

The House voted 64-45, but the legislation needed 71 votes to prevail.

Just the day before, lawmakers also rejected a much more restrictive concealed carry plan, suggesting a compromise on the long-stalled issue might be lurking somewhere in the middle.

"Yesterday and today's vote will affect future negotiations as to how we resolve this," said state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat.

Last year a federal judge ordered the state to draft a concealed carry law by June 8, a decision that could eventually force lawmakers to deal with an issue they've long ignored.

Supporters argued the legislation would put guns in the hands of regular people for self-defense.

"The bad guys already have the guns," said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Harrisburg Democrat, said.

But state Rep. Deborah Conroy, an Elmhurst Democrat, was among those who wanted to see more restrictions in place.

"I'm willing to talk about that until one minute before June 9th if I have to," Conroy said.

The proposal would have allowed licensed gun owners who own an already-required Firearm Owners Identification card to apply for a license to carry a concealed weapon in public. The proposal restricts possession of a firearm in certain public places like schools, government buildings and prisons and requires training to get a license.

Local communities would have little say in further restricting the ability to carry. The permit would cost $100.

Lawmakers on both sides of the debate are facing a deadline that's looming soon.

"If they believe in defending the Second Amendment, then they need to be voting (for) that," said state Rep. Barbara Wheeler, a Crystal Lake Republican.

Gun rights advocates say that if lawmakers don't put rules in place for Illinoisans to carry by then, they'd be allowed to have a gun on them without any restrictions or prior training.

"The clock is going to run out and Illinois is going to go kicking and screaming and dragging into constitutional compliance one way or the other," said state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, an Elmhurst Republican.

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