While Chicago-area lawmakers continue to push for tough gun laws, downstate politicians think they have the support needed to get a concealed carry measure passed in Springfield.
This week, a House panel filled with "downstate gun-rights backers" is expected to approve legislation that would allow Illinois citizens to carry guns in public if they receive special training, according to the Pantagraph. The push comes as thousands of pro-gun activists head to Springfield for an Illinois State Rifle Association rally.
“I’ve never had the groundswell or the grassroots effort that this bill is getting and attention that it’s getting right now,” Democratic Rep. Brandon Phelps told the Quad-City Times. Phelps is among several downstate Democrats who support a law that would allow some Illinois residents to carry a weapon with proper training. He is also one of many concealed carry supporters who is confident about passing a measure soon--despite the state's track record on gun control.
The Journal Star reports that no concealed carry bill has made it out of committee since 1990, and Governor Pat Quinn has reportedly vowed to veto the measure if it reaches his desk.
Still, supporters will gather in Springfield Tuesday and make their voices heard. One high-profile supporter, Chicagoan Otis McDonald, will be there as well. McDonald was the lead plaintiff in case against Chicago's handgun ban, which was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
"If I know that that person has a right to conceal/carry, I'm gonna have a second thought about just taking his money out there on the street," McDonald told NBC Chicago.
He, however, is one of the few supporters of the measure in the Chicago area.
“It’s a different atmosphere that we live in," Sen. Terry Link told the Quad-City Times. "People live in fear constantly about guns. We do not want to start the wild, wild West up by us." Link, a Democrat who represents suburban Waukegan, suggested that downstate lawmakers should some time in Chicago to see the big difference between how a concealed carry measure would play out in a congested urban environment.
One opponent of the measure shared some disturbing concealed carry statistics with NBC Chicago:
Mark Walsh of the Illinois Coalition against Handgun Violence points to a recent study that showed that since 2007, concealed carry permit owners have been involved in 25 murder suicides, 17 mass shootings and at least 9 shootings of police officers.
Illinois and Wisconsin are the last states in the country without some form of a conceal carry law. But, as the Journal Star reports, Wisconsin has recently moved to allow some residents to carry guns in plain sight, which advocates believe will lead to a conceal carry law.
“I have never had an objection to anyone having a legitimate gun,” Link told the Pantagraph. “But when we see someone with a gun in my area, we know they’re not duck hunting.”
A vote on a concealed carry bill could come as soon as Tuesday.