Say what you will about the Illinois legislature, but at least it demonstrated something last week that Congress could not show.
It's willing to stand up to the National Rifle Association.
That could be a short-lived point of pride, though, as the state has only until June 8 to comply with a federal appeals court order to create rules allowing people to carry concealed weapons. And, it's worth noting that the legislation that fell seven votes short of passage in the House Thursday was not horrible as gun-rights legislation goes.
The NRA-backed bill pushed by Harrisburg Democratic state Rep. Brandon Phelps at least would prohibit guns in government buildings, bars, casinos, arenas, college campuses and airports, among other public places. And gun owners who want concealed-carry rights would have to undergo training in order to get a license costing $100.
Those are reasonable requirements, though it seems to us a gaping omission among the restricted locales is public transportation, particularly Metra and the CTA.
It's also understandable why the language of the Phelps bill, giving the state overriding authority to approve concealed-carry permits, posed concerns for many lawmakers. The language of an earlier, much more restrictive bill may have gone too far in giving local municipalities final say over concealed-carry options within their borders, but surely some position can be found between the extremes that will provide local communities some say in the level of risk they must accept in permitting people to carry concealed weapons in their towns.
We have never been thrilled about allowing concealed carry in Illinois, hardly swayed by the notion that a society armed to the teeth is required to counter the limited number of scofflaws who manage to acquire weapons illegally. But the appeals court has made it clear that Illinois must join the other 49 states in developing a system permitting it, so it's pointless to debate the validity of the issue itself. The question now is to determine how we will regulate the practice.
Our preference is for restriction of concealed weapons from public places as much as possible. Imperfect though it may be, the Phelps bill provides a place to start, and it's important that lawmakers -- even those who share our disdain for the practice of carrying concealed weapons -- do start.
If no regulations are put in place by June 8, the deadline date set by the court, almost no restrictions will exist to control where concealed weapons can be allowed. In that sense, the NRA and its supporters already hold the upper hand in the concealed-carry debate. Thankfully, Illinois lawmakers have shown they're not going to let that lobby make the rules. But they also must remember that if they don't act on something, the result could be even worse.