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Senate Weighing Tight Concealed Carry Proposal

A concealed firearm.
Mark Holloway via Flickr

An Illinois Senate committee has approved legislation that would pave the way for concealed-carry of firearms in Illinois. But gun-rights advocates say it's too restrictive, and the measure faces an uphill climb.

State Sen. KwameRaoul, D-Chicago, was trying to negotiate a compromise with gun-rights supporters. But ultimately he went his own way. His proposal would not allow guns in schools, day cares, casinos, and stadiums.

Gun owners would have to apply to the Illinois State Police, who would in turn ask local law enforcement whether there was a reason someone should not be licensed. It would also let Chicago police deny some individuals with concealed-carry permits from bringing weapons into the city.

Raoul says Chicago has things that make it different from the rest of Illinois — like a much higher population density. "So there's a lot more opportunity for conflict," Raoul says.

The difference here is the one at the heart of the gun debate: If you look at a city with a relatively high crime rate, do you say the answer lies in more guns or fewer? Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, flipped Raoul's argument about Chicago's potential for conflict on its head.

"Isn't that a reason to make sure it is just as east to carry a loaded firearm in the city of Chicago?" Raoul says.

Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, says it isn't a "real" concealed-carry bill.

"This is a bill to discourage people and prevent people from carrying a firearm and exercising their constitutional, fundamental right to keep and bear arms for self-defense in the public," Vandermyde says.

He says permit holders would have a hard time navigating the patchwork of restrictions that the legislation would allow. He and other pro-gun activists are pushing for a much less restrictive law.

A Senate committee approved the measure on a party-line vote. The legislation's Democratic sponsor says he doesn't know whether he has enough votes to get it through the full Senate, but he says he could try as early as Friday.

Illinois has until June 9 to meet a federal court decline to enact some form of concealed-carry.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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