Illinois Ends Last-in-Nation Ban on Carrying Concealed Guns

Illinois lifted its prohibition against concealed firearms as lawmakers rejected an effort by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn to restrict guns in public places.

The nation’s fifth-largest state will now join the other 49 in letting citizens carry hidden guns, as dictated by a Dec. 11 federal court finding that Illinois’s ban was unconstitutional. Quinn on July 2 made changes to the approved bill, inserting limits on the ammunition capacity of gun magazines, restoring the right of local governments to enact restrictions and prohibiting firearms in bars or restaurants that sell alcohol.

Lawmakers today rejected those, with the House of Representatives and Senate overturning the amendatory vetoes. Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, said lawmakers needed to provide clarity to residents.

“If we didn’t pass anything, we’d have the Wild West,” he said.

“We already have in my district a Wild, Wild West,” responded Senator Jacqueline Collins, another Chicago Democrat. There were more than 70 shootings -- 12 fatal -- in Chicago from Wednesday through Sunday evening.

Lawmaking Mouthpieces

Quinn told reporters in Springfield that the legislative action was “extremely disappointing” and the law flawed.

“It has shortcomings that will lead to tragedy,” he said.

Last week, he called lawmakers “mouthpieces for the NRA,” referring to the Fairfax, Virginia-based National Rifle Association, a gun-lobbying group.

Lawmakers today slammed the governor for not suggesting changes when the bill was going through the legislative process.

“This sends a strong message to the governor,” said Democratic Representative Brandon Phelps, the bill’s main sponsor, adding that Quinn’s changes were “grandstanding, and he should be ashamed of himself.”

The General Assembly approved the bill May 31 after months of negotiations. Today was the deadline to enact a law.

The debate divided Chicago, with strict gun laws, from the rest of the state. Many state legislatures are split by urban and rural interests. In Illinois, with about 380 miles (611 kilometers) separating its southern tip from an urban center with a history of the nation’s toughest gun laws, those fractures are even more pronounced.

While gun-control advocates -- most in urban areas -- have pushed for stronger restrictions after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting that left 26 students and adults dead, opponents from rural and suburban areas have countered with claims that such atrocities could be eliminated or reduced if more citizens were armed.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 ruled that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to keep and bear arms, striking down a handgun ban in the District of Columbia by a 5-4 vote. Two years later, the high court invalidated a Chicago ordinance that barred guns even within the home.

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