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Illinois closer to concealed carry but it would also end Chicago ban on assault weapons

| Friday, May 24, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gun owners could carry concealed weapons in Illinois, the last state in the nation to prohibit it, under legislation that swept through the House Friday with the backing of the powerful Democratic speaker from Chicago, a longtime proponent of firearms restrictions.

The House voted 85-30 in a historic tally to establish a system for allowing the carrying of concealed guns, a legislative task compelled by a federal appeals court ruling and precipitated by House Speaker Michael Madigan's turnabout.

But its obliteration of all local gun laws, including Chicago's ban on assault-style weapons, drew immediate resistance from Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat like Madigan. Quinn said the proposal endangers the public by pre-empting local gun laws, which have nothing to do with concealed carry, the only subject covered by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decree.

“We need strong gun-safety laws that protect the people of our state. Instead, this measure puts public safety at risk,” Quinn said in a statement released immediately after the House vote.

Senate President John Cullerton, another Democrat from Chicago, called the pre-emption provision “offensive.” Cullerton said he would meet privately with his majority caucus Monday to decide how to proceed. A Senate concealed-carry plan, which overrules local control only by requiring a statewide carry program, is on the Senate floor awaiting a vote.

The appeals court declared Illinois' last-in-the-nation prohibition on public possession of weapons unconstitutional in December and gave lawmakers until June 9 to adopt a carry system.

The measure, sponsored by ardent gun-rights advocate Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democrat from Harrisburg in deep southern Illinois, outlines a so-called “shall issue” law, meaning law enforcement officials would be required to issue permits to qualified gun owners. Only about 10 states, such as New York, have more restrictive “may issue” laws, which give police more discretion to deny permission.

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