Illinois remains the only state in the union without a concealed carry law on the books -- and despite repeated failures, gun rights advocates are not giving up.
On Wednesday, the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee approved House Bill 5745, which would allow residents to carry concealed weapons. Once again, downstate Democrat Brandon Phelps sponsored the measure.
“We’re the only state (that bans concealed carry). If it was so bad, why isn’t there any other states trying to repeal this? It works,” Phelps told the State Journal-Register, claiming crime has gone down in places that allow residents to carry concealed weapons.
Phelps said he was optimistic about the bill's passage this time around -- but his hopes have been up in the past.
Last year, another bill sponsored by Phelps on the matter failed by only six votes after months of heated debate in Springfield. Once again, the issue pitted downstate lawmakers against those from the Chicago area.
As the Capitol Fax Blog reported Wednesday, downstate Democrats released a scathing statement about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's statewide gun registry and ammunition tax plans, saying they would "kill these bills."
“I can’t believe these Chicago politicians think we’re just going to roll over and let them push their ridiculous laws on Southern Illinois,” Phelps said in a statement. “It’s time for them to face the facts and realize that guns don’t kill people. People kill people, and criminals are not the ones who are going to register their weapons. Only law-abiding citizens like the people in Southern Illinois will end up paying these Chicago gun taxes.”
Jim West, a former Department of Corrections officer who now teaches pistol classes for the National Rifle Association, told the State Journal-Register that the idea of a tax on ammunition is comprable to making people pay a "nickel more for a gallon of gas because of people who drink and drive."
Rep. Kelly Burke (D-Chicago) acknowledged to the Illinois Statehouse News that the concealed carry issue was a "geographic issue"-- and that was not going to change. She urged lawmakers to work on their differences and "not just jam legislation through the House."
While some have expressed the desire for a compromise, the Capitol Fax blog reports that unless the Rifle Association agrees to allow Chicago to opt out of concealed carry, the measure could fail once again.
"Folks in Chicago are not comfortable with firearms," former state Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville) told the Statehouse News. "The thought of someone carrying one upsets them. I don't think concealed carry will ever happen in Chicago."
A vote on HB5745 has not yet been scheduled in the house.