By Anna Lothson
The Illinois Senate passed concealed handgun legislation Friday afternoon by a 45-12-1 margin, but state Sen. Don Harmon (D-39th), said he couldn't stomach voting yes for the controversial bill that will soon become law, regardless of what Governor Pat Quinn decides to do about it.
"In my view it is a little bit too much to swallow," Harmon said of the revised bill that will allow Illinois residents to carry concealed weapons. The legislative session officially adjourns tonight at midnight.
"It certainly is a little more palatable than [the previous version]," Harmon said, "[but] in my view it still prevents home rule communities from preventing concealed carry."
The revised proposal precludes towns like Oak Park from regulating handguns by requiring owners to register with the village, even though Oak Park and Chicago's assault weapons bans were upheld. They can, however, require reporting of lost and stolen guns. The bill also prohibits weapons on mass transit, a point debated among legislators.
One particular element Harmon hoped would be eliminated in the revised bill is permitting handguns in restaurants. Harmon wanted a clear proposal banning handguns in all restaurants, but the version passed Friday allows guns to be carried into restaurants with no more than 50 percent of their sales from alcohol. Harmon wanted the measure to prohibit guns from any establishment where alcohol can be consumed. Restaurant owners, however, still have the prerogative to place signs stating that no guns are allowed on the premises.
"The overreach on taking away power from local governments was too much for me to support," Harmon said of the overall bill.
Under the new legislation, which as of press time was not signed by the governor, concealed weapons would be banned from other sites, such as CTA and Metra buses and trains, casinos, government buildings, schools and stadiums. The Illinois Legislature was forced to pass a bill by June 9 because of a mandate from the federal appeals court that overruled Illinois' ban on concealed weapons in public.
The legislation passed prevents home-rule communities like Oak Park from enacting their own local ordinance regulating concealed handguns and ammunition for concealed handguns as covered by the Firearm Owner's Identification Act.
One change that has the potential to impact Oak Park, however, is this provision of House Bill 183, which "preempts home rule on the prohibition of possession or ownership of assault weapons unless the ordinance is enacted before, on, or within 10 days of the effective date of this Act and any amendments thereafter."
This allows Oak Park to maintain its regulations on assault weapons, which were previously enacted.
Harmon said the Illinois House has no choice but to concur with the senate's decision; he also said the bill was "fairly well negotiated" between the two bodies.
The concealed-carry bill allows a five-year permit, but it allows law enforcement to object to a permit application, which would force that applicant to appeal to a seven-person appointed board that will approve requests. Applicants must also complete 16 hours of training before getting a permit to carry.
Harmon said one positive element in the bill is that it will require lost and stolen weapons and the private sale of guns to be reported in real time. This means anyone wanting to buy or sell a gun would have to call the State Police to confirm that the buyer has a valid permit.
"That's a huge step in tracking down illegal guns," said Harmon, adding that he felt better about the revised bill than he did the initial House proposal, which passed last week. But he still worries "it will cause disruption" in the communities he represents.
Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley told Wednesday Journal on Monday that he was concerned about how the new law impacts his officers' ability to conduct their regular duties. Oak Park's handgun ordinance continues to be reviewed, he said, and should go before the village board for updates soon in order to reconcile the local and state laws.
The concealed carry law will likely require training for his officers to remind them of the change. Tanksley said officers are always taught to be prepared for potential threats, but this law would call for additional awareness on the officers' part.
"That awareness will always be heightened. … Officers always have to take certain precautions," he said Monday. "It may just mean additional reminders to make sure [their] antennas are always up. They have to be aware that anyone can now be in possession of a handgun."