SPRINGFIELD (AP) — The firestorm over concealed weapons moved to the Illinois House floor Tuesday, sparking Republican complaints that an extraordinary legislative process set up by majority Democrats would restrict the right to carry guns in public rather than allow it, as a federal court has ordered.
A wide-open and wide-ranging discussion over seven hours that dealt largely with how gun possession would be restricted ended the way critics argued it should have begun: with a vote on a comprehensive package outlining the way guns could be carried in the state.
"We are under a court order. We have a reasonable bill that complies with the court order and its direction," said Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democrat from Harrisburg in far southern Illinois. "We should have one standard for our state."
Phelps's provision, 1 of 10 issues debated Tuesday as an amendment, got a House OK 67-48. But like the 10 other amendments, the vote only represented approval to add it to an empty bill put forward by House Speaker Michael Madigan in a rare procedure the Chicago Democrat set up to air out the issue — and perhaps spread out the blame for how the law is crafted.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that Illinois' last-in-the-nation ban on carrying concealed weapons is unconstitutional, giving the Legislature until June to rectify it.
"People are watching this. They know Chicago is the murder capital of the world," said Forsyth Republican Bill Mitchell, adding, "You might have the majority, but you sure as hell can't lead."
The House began the day with 27 separate amendments dealing with concealed carry, many of which restricted where guns could be carried. Gun prohibitions in schools, casinos, stadiums and other locales go OK'd in amendments that go so far as to include parking lots, meaning firearms couldn't be stored in cars while gun-owners go inside.