Mt. Vernon Register-News

May 22, 2013

New Ill. House gun bill excludes parks, transit

Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD — — Public transportation and municipal parks would be off limits to guns in a compromise proposal filed Wednesday that would regulate the carrying of concealed weapons in Illinois.

The new House plan also requires a $150 application fee, 50 percent higher than sponsoring Rep. Brandon Phelps originally wanted. Phelps, of Harrisburg, discussed the measure with fellow House Democrats late Wednesday afternoon.

The legislation is similar to his original plan, which failed by seven votes in the House last month, but contains key changes drafted by House Speaker Michael Madigan's staff.

It would prohibit carrying firearms on publicly subsidized transportation, a must for Chicago Democrats wary of a slew of weaponry on Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains. And it adds a prohibition on municipal parks and athletic areas, along with making "any building or portion of a building under the control of a unit of local government" gun-free.

The fee for obtaining a concealed carry permit is $150 in the new proposal, up from $100 initially proposed. Of that, $120 would go to the Illinois State Police to administer the program, $20 to support mental health reporting and $10 for the state's crime laboratories.

Todd Vandermyde, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Illinois, said outside the closed-door House Democrats' caucus meeting that it was too early to comment on the plan.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that the Illinois ban on concealed weapons on public streets is unconstitutional. It gave lawmakers in the last state in the nation to prohibit it until June 9 to rectify the omission.

Gun-rights advocates nonetheless have had to fight every step of the way. Illinois is divided on the gun issue more geographically than politically. Chicago Democrats support strong curbs on guns while in other parts of the state. Gun owners say the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms should be interpreted liberally.