By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
Not everyone in the Mississippi Valley Hunters and Fishermen's Association plans to carry a concealed weapon, but many of the members celebrated when Illinois on Tuesday became the last state in the nation to allow concealed carry.
"I think there's a lot of excitement," said club president Glenn Sanders.
A veto override that passed by wide margins in a special session of the General Assembly has paved the way for members of the public to carry firearms for self defense. That doesn't mean gun owners can start carrying just yet.
"The state police have basically six months to come up with a plan. I expect it will be well after the first of the year before they'll be issuing permits," said Sanders, a retired conservation police sergeant.
Gov. Pat Quinn had called the veto vote "a showdown" over concealed carry. Quinn had used his amendatory veto to rewrite broad sections of the law passed late in the spring session in a bipartisan effort.
The General Assembly's rejection of Quinn's proposals came on the day that a federal court had set as a deadline to allow qualifying members of the public to carry concealed guns.
"Concealed carry is not only the will of the people, but now -- thanks to this vote -- the law of the land in Illinois," said Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville.
The Senate voted 41-17 in favor of the override after a House tally of 77-31, margins that met the three-fifths threshold needed to set aside the amendatory veto. Quinn had used his veto authority to suggest changes, including prohibiting guns in restaurants that serve alcohol and limiting gun-toting citizens to one firearm at a time.
Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, was among House members who felt that Quinn's changes were too restrictive.
"By overriding his veto we have given Illinois a sensible concealed carry law that protects public safety and respects the Second Amendment," Hammond said.
Lawmakers had little appetite for fiddling any further with the legislation on the deadline day that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had set for ending what it said was an unconstitutional ban on carrying concealed weapons. Without action, the previous gun law would be invalidated and none would take its place.
"If we do not vote to override today, at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, July 10, there are no restrictions upon people who want to carry handguns in the public way," said Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat who negotiated the legislation with House sponsors.
Despite the setback for Quinn, he remained resolute when he spoke to reporters late in the day.
"It's very, very important that we protect the people," he said. "The legislation today does not do that. It has shortcomings that will lead to tragedies."
The law that took effect Tuesday permits anyone with a Firearm Owner's Identification card who has passed a background check and undergone gun-safety training of 16 hours -- longest of any state -- to obtain a concealed-carry permit for $150.
The Illinois State Police has six months to set up a system to start accepting applications. Spokeswoman Monique Bond said police expect 300,000 applications in the first year.
Sanders said the details of the regulations drafted by the State Police will determine how things work. For instance, he said if people who have taken 10-hour hunter safety courses are given credit for half of the 16-hour handgun training, that could make things easier on people seeking carry permits.
"This is a historic, significant day for law-abiding gun owners," said Rep. Brandon Phelps, a southern Illinois Democrat who, in 10 years in the House, has continued work on concealed carry begun by his uncle, ex-Rep. David Phelps, who began serving in the mid-1980s. "They finally get to exercise their Second Amendment rights."
For years, powerful Chicago Democrats had tamped down agitation by gun owners to adopt concealed carry. So gun activists took the issue to court.
Gun-control advocates saw the handwriting on the wall after the 7th District Court ruled in December that it was unconstitutional for Illinois to deny concealed carry rights to qualifying citizens.
Quinn said he will not give up on greater restrictions over where guns may be carried.
The Associated Press provided information for this story.