SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (STMW) — Gov. Pat Quinn today stood solidly today behind his opposition to allowing concealed weapons in Illinois even though Wisconsin is on the verge of becoming the 49th state with some form of such a law.
“We must ensure the safety of our neighborhoods, and allowing concealed carry does not advance that goal,” Quinn’s office said in a statement. “Our streets need to be safer, and a concealed carry law would put first responders and the public at risk by allowing more weapons – hidden weapons – in public places.”
But the leading proponent of allowing concealed weapons in Illinois sees the Wisconsin legislature’s to approve a concealed carry measure as a boost to his cause.
Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said Wisconsin will give him momentum for a potential vote when Illinois lawmakers return for the fall session.
“It’s embarrassing. We’re the last one,” said Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg. “Every other state tends to believe this is a right, not a privilege, and they have let their law-abiding citizens do it, and I don’t know why we should be any different.”
Phelps’ legislation failed in the House by six votes in the spring. Phelps said he would consider retooling his legislation, including crafting a proposal that would allow citizens in every county except Cook to carry concealed weapons.
“It’s going to be considered even more now because we are the last one,” Phelps said. “We’ve got to do something. We don’t want to leave anybody out, but you know what? We’ve got to start looking at things, and maybe try a different approach.”
Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said he is willing to search for a middle ground on the concealed weapons issue.
“My belief is that I’m actually open minded,” said Raoul, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I tend to think that both sides of the debate need to, in earnest, look at public safety. This notion that, ‘If we allow everybody to carry a gun, the streets are going to be safer,’ I don’t believe that that is the case. The notion that if we do everything to prohibit anybody from having a gun, the streets are going to be safer,’ I don’t believe that either. The truth lies somewhere in between.”
“Instead of being a battle,” he added, “there needs to be a discussion and negotiations and a study of what will actually make our streets safer with regards to gun policy.”
But Raoul said he does not “buy the garbage” that every state has a law similar to those proposed in Illinois because some are stricter and others are looser. He said proponents are glossing over the differences in state laws when they argue that Illinois stands alone. Raoul said any comparison of state laws also needs to be done in the light of the different characteristics of the states.
“You can’t compare Wisconsin to the state of Illinois, as you can’t compare the state of Utah or Idaho or many of those largely rural states with a state like Illinois, which has a metropolis like the city of Chicago, where young people are dying on the streets every day,” Raoul said.
In the House, Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, is a longtime opponent of concealed weapons proposals and said no one is safer by carrying them.
“In fact, by the time they get the gun out, it may well be too late. And to the extent they get the gun out early, they may well be causing pain and harm and damage to a family member,” Currie said.
“We have enough mayhem, enough gun violence without the opportunity for people to carry concealed weaponry on their persons,” Currie added.
She also opposed any attempt to allow individual counties within Illinois to have different laws.
“I just don’t think that it makes sense for anybody to wander the streets with a gun concealed in his or her pocket,” Currie said.
Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, is a former state’s attorney from Madison County who passed a proposal several years ago that would have allowed retired police officers and prison officials to carry concealed weapons. The measure, which passed narrowly, received support from then-state Sen. Barack Obama, who was campaigning for U.S. Senate at the time.
Haine said he believed the Illinois Senate could pass a concealed weapons proposal but argued the biggest hurdle is in the House.
Republican Sen. Larry Bomke, who represents the Springfield area, said he supported having a broader concealed carry law and has sponsored legislation in the Senate to allow judges to carry concealed weapons. “All the other states can’t be wrong and Illinois right,” Bomke said. “I think it’s time we seriously look at passing some form of concealed carry.”