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Quinn Rewrites Gun Bill; Critics Question Motive

Concealed carry debate
Chris Slaby/WUIS

With a week to go before a deadline requiring Illinois allow people to carry guns in public, Gov. Pat Quinn today vetoed the legislation that would have authorized concealed carry.  The Democrat claims he's concerned about public safety, but he's already under fire by critics who say it's a political stunt. The measure's sponsor has already filed paperwork to override Quinn's changes.

Illinois is the only state in the nation without some form of concealed carry.

Now, to use a relevant turn of phrase ... the state is under the gun to pass one.  Following a lawsuit  from the National Rifle Association, a federal court has given Illinois until July 9 to lift its state ban.

Gov. Pat Quinn says while he'll follow the court order --- the carry bill legislators sent him presents serious problems.

"This is about public safety.  I think that public safety should never be compromised.  Never be negotiated away.  The governor - that's me - my job is to protect public safety and I think that's what I'm doing here with these common sense changes ... And I think the General Assembly and the members should put aside politics and put aside people and their safety," Quinn says. "We must, number one, make sure that the standards here are for the public safety, not for the advancement of the National Rifle Associating.  I'm Governor of the people of Illinois.  My job is to advance their interest: the common good.  And those who are listening to the NRA should listen to the people of Illinois."

Quinn called a splashy news conference in Chicago to announce his distaste ... and to introduce his own plan.  He effectively rewrote the proposal, sending the General Assembly nine basic changes.

-Legislators voted to ban guns in bars and other businesses where more than half of sales come from booze - Quinn wants to forbid guns anywhere that serves alcohol.

-The plan approved by the General Assembly sets no limits on how many guns someone could carry - the Governor wants to limit it to one gun, and one magazine holding no more than ten rounds of ammunition.

-Quinn also wants to flip the standard of presumption -- the original bill requires store, restaurant or movie theaters that don't want guns to put up signs saying so.  The Governor wants to reverse it, so guns would be forbidden unless a private businesses expressly allows them.

"Whether it's a movie theater, or whether it's church," Quinn says.  "When you got to church you ought to have signs saying 'No guns allowed?' I think it ought to be presumed, no guns ought to be brought into church."

As Quinn listed his recommendations, he was surrounded, and applauded, by relatives of shooting victims.

"I stand here today because, like the governor said ... my son, Terrell Bosley, was shot down in the city of Chicago on April 4, 2006 while coming outside of a church and somebody shot and killed him," Pam Bosley says. "We'll travel to Springfield.  We there.  So, we got you governor.  So, if you need us -- well we already there.  We wake up every single day, without our child. The pain is horrible.  You don't want to be in this situation.  So we ask that you stand behind him too. So you won't end up in our shoes."

Quinn's critics say it's all a political stunt.

Bill Daley, who's looking to grab the Democratic nomination for governor from Quinn, likewise calls legislators' plan a bad bill.  But he blames Quinn for failing to push his changes during the many months the General Assembly was negotiating the proposal.

The NRA's lobbyist shares that outlook.

"When you have a governor like this who wants to throw rocks and sit on the sidelines as if they're a cheerleader, this is the result that you get.  You get him stomping his feet and acting like a petulant little child," the National Rifle Association's Todd Vandermyde says. "This is what happens when you have a feckless governor who has absolutely no leadership skills and we have a rudderless ship of state.  And the fact that he has just sat there and ben on the sidelines, just like he has been on pensions, just like he has on other major issues.  He's irrelevant and I think he borders on being incompetent."

Those are common criticisms of Quinn.

But maybe it was all grand calculation on his part - designed to make Quinn look like an outsider, even after decades in Illinois politics and his fifth year as Governor. After all, his concealed carry stance could win him votes in Chicago, particularly in the African American community, a big political prize. It'll hurt him downstate - but he's already unpopular there.

The measure's sponsor - Democratic Rep. Brandon Phelps, who's from Harrisburg, in Southern Illinois, accuses Quinn of catering to "Chicago gun grabbers."

Despite Quinn's harsh rhetoric against legislators taking their cues from the NRA, defeat wouldn't be the worst outcome for him at this late date. Phelps says Quinn doesn't want to be responsible for pushing the state past the federal court's July 9 deadline.

"The last person that would want to go off the cliff is Gov. Quinn.  He doesn't need that.  Because then it will be mayhem, the Wild West and it will all come back on him," Phelps says.

There seems to be little danger of that. Phelps promptly filed paperwork to override Quinn's veto, and the General Assembly is scheduled to vote early next week. Broad, bipartisan majorities supported the proposal the first time around -- more than enough to override the governor.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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