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updated: 5/24/2013 11:28 AM

House primed for vote on concealed carry

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  • Lawmakers set up a vote in the Illinois House over allowing people to carry a concealed firearm in public.

       Lawmakers set up a vote in the Illinois House over allowing people to carry a concealed firearm in public.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- A new proposal that would allow people to carry concealed handguns but restrict them from buses, trains and parks is set up for a vote in the Illinois House as early as Friday.

The proposal would allow trained, licensed gun owners who have passed a background check to legally carry a concealed weapon on them or in their car.

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The proposal is patterned on an NRA-backed measure that was narrowly defeated on the House floor last month. But the new one adds places that would be off-limits to guns, like public transit. It was approved by a House committee Thursday.

A spokesman for the Regional Transit Authority said the organization was in favor of restricting handguns on their buses and trains.

"Being on the CTA or Metra is similar to an airplane in that you are in a confined metal box either elevated or moving fast," Jordan Matyas, the RTA Chief of Staff, said. "Allowing a concealed gun on a crowded train or bus is dangerous and a bad idea."

In addition, the plan restricts carrying a concealed handgun in the Cook County Forest Preserve.

Spokeswoman Karen Vaughn said the agency "did specifically request to be in the list of exceptions."

Vaughn said officials feel their patrons would be safer if concealed weapons were restricted and the Forest Preserve's 115-member police force continues to keep the peace.

Other suburban forest preserves, such as in DuPage County, would not be similarly restricted. A DuPage County Forest Preserve spokeswoman said the organization wasn't prepared to comment.

Also among the restricted areas are schools, government buildings, libraries, hospitals, playgrounds, airports, bars and stadiums.

The House's preferred concealed carry legislation, though, may face stiff opposition in the Illinois Senate, so some of the restrictions could remain open to negotiations.

Competing proposals would allow larger suburban communities to alter concealed carry laws.

Supporters argue that allowing communities to make their own local concealed carry rules would create a "patchwork" of laws that would be difficult to navigate.

"I don't think constitutional rights should vary from ZIP code to ZIP code," state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, an Elmhurst Republican said. "I think the bill accomplishes that and is sensitive to all areas."

State Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, said despite his general preference for local control he supports the statewide proposal.

"We're not trying to trip up law-abiding citizens," Sandack said. "Having 109 potential different rules in various locations just sets up a trap for the unwary, and that's just not fair."

Sandack and Reboletti both voted for the proposal, which passed the committee by a vote of 13-3. Democratic state Reps. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook, and Scott Drury of Highland voted against it.

Suburban mayors are by no means united in preference for a statewide standard or local authority.

Arlington Heights Mayor Thomas Hayes said while he was in favor of the constitutional right to bear arms, he was concerned that the concealed carry legislation would pre-empt local authorities.

"Not to say that we would make any changes, but we'd like the opportunity to make changes if deemed necessary," Hayes said.

Not every mayor opposed ceding authority to the state.

Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod backed a statewide set of restrictions, saying suburban town boundaries can be especially confusing.

"With the borders we have, if you're not a politician, you have no idea whether you're in Hoffman Estates," McLeod said.

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