The Legislature passed the state's first concealed-carry permit law Tuesday over the fervent objections of Gov. Pat Quinn. March is the projected time when Illinois residents will begin carrying handguns in public, after what's expected to be a nine-month implementation for the new law.
March is also the month that Quinn is expected to ask fellow Democrats to back him for another term, in the 2014 primaries. Among his arguments is likely to be that he tried hard to mitigate concealed carry.
"Today was a bad day for public safety in Illinois," Quinn told reporters in Springfield, hours after a General Assembly controlled by his own party handed him a rebuke on the issue. Both chambers overrode his amendatory veto of the gun bill by wide margins.
"I always do what I think in my conscience is right for the people. I think it was a proper and safe thing to do," Quinn said. "It's the job of the governor to always fight for the common good, for the people."
The Illinois State Police still has 180 days under the law to set up the implementation system for concealed carry. Applicants will have to wait as long as an additional 90 days to get their permits after that.
Illinois residents will have to pay $150 for the permits, and nonresidents will be charged $300. All applicants will have to complete a 16-hour training course, the toughest requirement in the country and twice that of Missouri.
The new law doesn't contain a reciprocity provision, meaning Missouri concealed-carry permits and those of other states won't allow carrying in Illinois unless the holder also obtains an Illinois permit. However, the law does contain a "drive-through" provision that allows licensed carriers from other states to travel through Illinois with their guns kept in their vehicles without getting an Illinois license.
The Illinois State Police has said that the agency anticipates 300,000 applications in the first year.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan -- herself a potential primary challenger to Quinn in next year's governor's race -- has been considering whether to appeal that ruling the U.S. Supreme Court. But Madigan's office has said the Legislature's passage of the concealed-carry law renders the issue moot.
Quinn last week attempted to write sweeping new restrictions into the concealed-carry bill that legislators sent him. With a court-imposed Tuesday deadline looming to have a law in place and legislators vowing a veto override, Quinn over the weekend gamely predicted "a showdown."
But it turned out to be more like an ambush. With little debate, the House and Senate both voted by wide margins to override Quinn's amendatory veto and put the original bill into law.
Illinois was under orders from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to have a concealed-carry law in place by Tuesday. The court ruled the state's last-in-the-nation ban on concealed carry was unconstitutional.
Had the Legislature not acted by Tuesday's deadline, the state could have immediately had to allow concealed carry, with no restrictions on the practice.
It was under that threat that the Democrat-controlled General Assembly sent a concealed-carry bill to Quinn in May for his signature.
But Quinn, a vocal opponent of concealed carry, instead used Illinois' unusual "amendatory veto" provision last week to write extensive new proposed restrictions into the bill.
Quinn added a one-gun carrying limit and a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines. He also attempted to add a provision that would ban guns anywhere that served alcohol (the original bill banned them only from bars). He tried to create a default assumption that gun-carriers aren't welcome in any business without signs inviting them in, and to give employers the right to bar guns from any part of the workplace, including parking lots.
The House on Tuesday easily overrode Quinn's amendatory veto, 77-31. The Senate followed suit hours later, 41-17.
Quinn's move, and the fact that he waited until days before the court-imposed deadline to do it, drew the ire of gun proponents and opponents alike because it injected a big dose of uncertainty into the issue.
"If we do not override, at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, July 10, there are no restrictions upon people who want to carry handguns in public," warned Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, during Senate floor debate. Raoul, a gun-control advocate, said he agrees with Quinn's changes but that they came too late.
Some Quinn critics have suggested he actually hurt the gun-control agenda by staging the 11th-hour showdown with lawmakers. They say he might have gotten further with a less-dramatic strategy of working with lawmakers early on to add his ideas to the bill.
Bill Daley, the former White House chief of staff and gun-control advocate who has launched a primary challenge to Quinn, slammed him for touting his proposed gun restrictions at high-profile community events rather than behind closed doors with lawmakers.
"I know he's gone to churches and he's prayed, but hope and praying are not a strategy," Daley told reporters outside the Statehouse on Tuesday as the override vote loomed. "There wasn't a concerted effort driven by the governor" to get the restrictions into the bill earlier.
"One would have to raise the question," Daley added. "Was this a political statement or a real attempt to have a solution to a problem that plagues our state and nation?"
Quinn, in remarks to later to reporters, testily denied he'd been disengaged from the legislative process . "I spoke about this to members of the Legislature over and over again," he said.
Quinn vowed to continue pushing for future laws to implement the changes he sought. "More than ever, I'm committed to getting follow-up legislation passed."
The bill is HB183.
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