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Quinn changes Illinois concealed carry legislation

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JOHN O'CONNOR, Associated Press

SOPHIA TAREEN, Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) Calling it a "flawed bill that jeopardizes public safety," Gov. Pat Quinn made major alterations Tuesday to a concealed carry measure, including setting a one-gun limit on the number of firearms a person can carry and banning weapons entirely from establishments where alcohol is served.

The Democratic governor used his amendatory veto power to change legislation sent to him after months of intense debate and compromise. He added provisions on signage, employers' rights and allowing local communities to create their own laws limiting assault weapons.

The move puts Illinois legislators on the spot to decide whether to reject Quinn's changes before a federal judge's July 9 deadline for Illinois to adopt a concealed carry law. Some vowed immediately to seek an override of Quinn's changes, a move that would require a three-fifths majority in both chambers, noting the original bill had the required votes to do it.

Illinois is the last state nationwide with a ban on concealed carry of weapons. But a December ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Appeals Court called it unconstitutional and set the deadline for lawmakers to comply.

Quinn made clear he never agreed with the ruling and said lawmakers put together the bill in a "hurried way," influenced the National Rifle Association.

"There are serious flaws in this bill that jeopardize public safety of the people of Illinois," Quinn said at a packed Chicago news conference attended by nearly 100 anti-violence advocates, including family members of those killed.

He played up the city's violence with a list of high profile speakers including the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who has led anti-violence marches, and a former Secret Service agent who was injured in the shooting of President Ronald Reagan.

The tone was in stark contrast to the other part of the concealed carry debate in more conservative downstate Illinois where the focus has been on gun owners' rights. Several lawmakers immediately criticized Quinn's move as political and said it left them with little time before the deadline, even though they sent him the bill roughly a month ago.

"I would hope that we quickly get this matter before the General Assembly and have an opportunity to override the veto, allowing the State Police to begin the conceal carry process for trained, law-abiding citizens," state Sen. Bill Haine, an Alton Democrat, said in a statement.

Senate President John Cullerton said there were issues worth discussing with his caucus, but he intended to talk with House Speaker Michael Madigan about an override, spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said. Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown said the House could take it up early next week, though no formal date has been set.

"It's too bad the governor wasn't engaged in the legislative session," Brown said. "Most of the provisions were pretty thoroughly debated in the House and Senate."

It didn't take long for lawmakers and his potential political challenges to accuse Quinn of playing politics.

Quinn faces re-election next year and likely a tough challenge from within his own party. Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, who is preparing a run, blasted Quinn for not showing leadership on the issue. Attorney General Lisa Madigan is also considering a run.

Quinn dismissed those allegations and said the court's deadline compressed the time he had to review it.

"I don't believe in compromising public safety and I don't believe in negotiating public safety," he said.

The original legislation allows qualified gun owners who pass background checks and undergo 16 hours of training to get carry permits for $150.

The language Quinn added would prevent gun owners from taking their weapons into any establishment that serves alcohol, including restaurants whose liquor sales amount to less than half of their gross sales. That's a provision gun owners would not bend on in legislative negotiations.

Quinn pointed out the bill would allow people to carry more than one gun with unlimited numbers of ammunition rounds, which he called a "public safety hazard." He rewrote it to limit gun owners to carrying one loaded, concealed gun with an ammunition clip holding no more than 10 rounds.

He also removed a provision that requires communities wanting to ban semi-automatic assault-style weapons to do so within 10 days after the legislation takes effect, saying communities should maintain local control over guns not covered by the concealed carry law.

Quinn called for clarifying language to make sure the Illinois State Police get the mental health records they need to determine whether a permit applicant could be a threat to himself or others. He objected to language requiring a gun to be "mostly concealed," saying it would lead to a law allowing guns to be carried on the hip, in the open, and causing "fear and confusion among the public."

He said a board considering appeals of denied permits should not be allowed to operate in secret, out of the public's eye, and said gun-toting citizens should be required to notify police, when asked, that they're carrying.

The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Harrisburg Democrat, said the bill was the result of a hard-won compromise and he'd likely file a motion to override any changes. He said changing it to allow cities to have different rules "would lead to all kinds of lawsuits."

"We've got a compromise with (Chicago), both sides of aisle and both chambers," Phelps said. "He's playing politics with this over public safety."

 

 

Posted 7/2/2013