Lawmakers ready to tinker with concealed carry
While Illinoisans apply by the thousands to carry a handgun in public for the first time, some lawmakers already are preparing to amend the infant law.
When the General Assembly reconvenes at the end of this month, certain legislators will attempt to tailor concealed carry rules by increasing fines, limiting where guns can be carried or purchased, and boosting education and training requirements. Others urge their colleagues to see how the new law -- a compromise forged after decades of wrangling -- works before making any changes. State Rep. Deborah Conroy, a Villa Park Democrat, has filed legislation to raise fines for breaking the complex rules determining where people can carry guns and to raise the criminal penalties for bringing a gun into a school.
Conroy said school administrators in her district were "awestruck" that taking a gun to school "had gone from a felony on the first offense to a misdemeanor on the first two offenses."
However, Conroy doesn't oppose the concealed carry law itself and said her proposed laws do not target responsible gun owners.
Still, state Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican who helped write the legislation to legalize concealed carry, wants to see the law play out before lawmakers start poking holes in it.
He said the new law was a bipartisan effort when it was approved last summer and added that it includes some of the most stringent education and licensing requirements in the country.
However, Sullivan is working to introduce legislation that punishes safety instructors who cut corners to get gun owners' licenses filed quickly without giving the proper training.
"We have found some instances where people paid for the training, but the instructor just signed off on it," Sullivan said. "Obviously, that's fraud."
Under Sullivan's plan, instructors who ignore requirements would serve jail time and lose their license to carry.
As for other changes, Sullivan wants to wait.
"We have to wait for empirical evidence before we amend it," he said.
Illinois State Rifle Association Director Richard Pearson said his group is working with legislators like Sullivan to make concealed carry and other firearm laws less restrictive.
"You can limit it for the good guys, but for the bad guys, there's no limit," Pearson said. "We want to make this thing work. We want to make it right. If we do, it could save a lot of lives, and save a lot of money."
Some downstate lawmakers are proposing their own changes, too. One proposal would lower the age at which someone can apply for a Firearm Owners Identification card without a parent's consent from 21 to 18.
On the other side, state Sen. Dan Kotowski has already filed legislation to prohibit carrying a gun in places of worship and is planning to propose stricter rules related to mental health issues.
"A vast majority of my district was opposed to it (concealed carry)," he said. "Now that the law is passed, they are asking what am I doing to make sure people with mental illness aren't getting access to these weapons."
It's not uncommon for lawmakers to tinker with new laws soon after they have been enacted. For example, legislators started making exceptions to the indoor smoking ban soon after they voted to move smokers outside in 2007.
Carry: Not uncommon for new laws to be tinkered with