Illinois Senate, House debate competing gun bills

Posted: May. 29, 2013 11:02 am Updated: Jun. 19, 2013 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Concealed carry legislation that passed the Illinois House last week was shot down by a Senate committee on Tuesday, setting up a showdown between the two chambers in the final three days of this legislative session.

Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, testified about his legislation that got 85 votes in the House. The bill would eliminate a crazy quilt pattern of gun laws that have been adopted in the state's 208 home rule communities. He said it's the best chance to meet a June 9 deadline set by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a ruling that the state's ban on concealed carry is unconstitutional.

Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said his own proposal is superior to the one promoted by Phelps. Raoul said local governments should "continue to take additional steps to ensure public safety" while allowing concealed carry.

Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, thinks there's a 50-50 chance that some agreement can be reached before the Legislature adjourns at midnight on Friday. He'll be meeting with Phelps and Raoul, hoping to work out a compromise today.

"I'd like to see the House's version pass in the Senate, but that doesn't look like that's going to happen," Sullivan said.

Two certified pistol instructors from Quincy say they're not overjoyed with the House version of concealed carry, but favor it over the Senate version.

"It will cost $150 for a permit to carry and that doesn't include the cost of a 16-hour class" which also might be in the $150 range, said Mike Schuttler, who got his National Rifle Association pistol certification earlier this month.

Schuttler believes some state lawmakers hope the high combined costs of permitting and certification will limit the number of people seeking concealed carry permits.

"It doesn't sound like something where the masses will be involved," Schuttler said.

Jason Klinner, who has been teaching Florida concealed carry courses for three years, said the Illinois State Police would be in charge of setting up part of the requirements for the Illinois concealed carry classes. There will be a safety and handling section of training. Klinner expects another section of the class will be specific to Illinois law, teaching participants where they cannot carry weapons and about penalties for violations.

"In the Senate bill, after a third carrying infraction, it becomes a felony. In the House bill it stays a Class A misdemeanor," Klinner said.

There are other differences between the two bills, such as Raoul's ban on carrying guns in a business that serves alcohol for consumption. Phelps' bill would eliminate additional gun control laws such as the ban on ownership of civilian versions of military-style weapons.

Sullivan said even with the serious differences between the House and Senate bills, he sees a strong desire to reach a compromise.

"Nobody wants us to not do anything and the federal court ruling take effect and thereby allow ‘constitutional carry,'?" Sullivan said.

Under constitutional carry, anybody would be allowed to carry firearms without the need for training and with no locations exempted.

The National Rifle Association has remained neutral on the House legislation, but opposes the Senate bill.