Allow concealed carry except in Cook County?
SPRINGFIELD -- A new plan to exclude Cook County from legislation allowing people to carry concealed guns could create havoc for some suburbs that cross county lines, suburban lawmakers and police say.
Towns like Barrington, Buffalo Grove, Elgin and Hanover Park are only partly in Cook County, creating the potential for different gun laws in different parts of town -- or on different sides of a street.
"If somebody's at the Shell Gas Station on Lake-Cook Road and they're getting gas and they're a law-abiding citizen and they have a firearm on them, in accordance with the concealed carry law, they walk across the street 50 feet to Dunkin' Donuts ... now they could be a felon," Republican state Sen. Dan Duffy said of Barrington, where the road between Lake and Cook counties also has a second name: Main Street.
The proposal, which has received initial support mainly from Chicago lawmakers, seeks to end the heated, decades-long gridlock over concealed carry in Illinois, the only state in the nation that doesn't allow it.
The discussions over this concealed carry proposal, and the many others on the table, have to happen quickly. Lawmakers face a June 8 deadline set last year by a federal judge. Should the state fail to adopt legislation by then, the Illinois ban on concealed carry could be invalidated, allowing legal gun owners to carry weapons with few restrictions.
On Monday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the U.S. Supreme Court to extend until June 24 her deadline for deciding whether to appeal that ruling. The deadline originally set is May 23.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, is behind the plan that would allow Cook County and Chicago to opt out of a state law allowing people to carry concealed weapons.
"My top priority is to preserve public safety, and in the interest of preserving public safety, which the court recognized as a legitimate priority, it must recognize the (state's) geographical differences," Raoul said.
The gun debate in Springfield often pits Chicago Democrats who tend to favor gun control against downstate lawmakers of both parties who lean toward favoring fewer gun restrictions. Suburban lawmakers often get stuck in the middle, making their opinions especially important to the debate's outcome.
Raoul said his proposal is not the first to set different rules for Cook County.
"These are boundaries that already exist. I didn't draw them," Raoul said.
Buffalo Grove Deputy Police Chief Steve Husak said his department is adept at dealing with both Cook and Lake counties, but differences now mostly come into play when prosecuting crime.
"Right now, the county just depends on which paperwork you do and where you send it," Husak said.
Husak said if the law passes, he believes it would be the first time officers would have to apply different laws to people in different locations.
"Dealing with two different counties could be a situation that's confusing or tough to enforce," Husak said.
Buffalo Grove Village President Jeffrey Braiman added that the village deals with county issues all the time because of differing tax rates.
"But that's easy because houses don't move," Braiman said. "People move."
"Obviously, we always want consistency," Braiman said. "(The state) might be thinking big picture and not about the smaller aspects like how it affects smaller types of municipalities."
Democratic state Sen. Michael Noland said his hometown of Elgin, which is divided between Kane and Cook counties, is "ground zero" for this issue.
"People in Elgin, for sure, cross over that county line several times a day," Noland said. The story is similar in Hanover Park, which is in Cook and DuPage counties.
State Sen. Julie Morrison said that because people are so mobile, different laws could be a problem even in towns that don't cross county lines.
"The communities are so similar that it could make it really hard to enforce," said the Deerfield Democrat, who plans to meet with fellow suburban lawmakers of both parties to discuss their concerns.
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, an Olympia Fields Democrat whose district contains parts of Cook and Will counties, said lawmakers are feeling the pressure to pass a concealed carry proposal before the deadline.
"I'm concerned about what happens on June 9th if we do nothing because inaction is action," Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson acknowledged the difficulties that Raoul was taking on in bringing a new proposal into the heated debate.
"The negotiation is going to leave people on both sides unhappy," Hutchinson said.
She said there are other examples of states making exemptions to concealed carry legislation to accommodate large cities.
"I've always advocated for a New York model of legislation," Hutchinson said. "Something that would allow counties like Cook, which is dealing with different issues as it relates to gun violence, to be able to handle those measures as they see fit."
"I've always been a strong proponent of local control," Hutchinson said.
Morrison said she understands the need for Chicago to have different rules but doesn't favor including all of Cook County in the exemption.
Noland said he opposes an exemption altogether, preferring a statewide solution.
"We have a real opportunity, a historic opportunity, to develop a policy that answers this question for densely urbanized areas, rural areas and what's in between, such as the suburbs," Noland said.
"I think this issue is going to be decided in the suburbs," he said.