The Illinois General Assembly is playing a game of political chicken over concealed carry with only nine days to go before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals stay on their ruling ends. On one side you have the Illinois State House of Representatives which has passed a shall-issue concealed carry law with limitations but that does mandate state preemption on firearms laws. On the other side you have Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL), State Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D-IL), Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D), and others of their gun prohibitionist ilk who want to preserve home rule at all costs even if it means not meeting the Court of Appeals deadline to craft a concealed carry law that was consistent with the court’s ruling.
This past Friday the Illinois House of Representatives passed an amended bill by a vote of 85 to 30. It had the support of House Speaker Michael Madigan as well as the pro-gun forces led by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg). That bill was a compromise. While it provided shall-issue concealed carry and preempted all local firearms laws in Illinois, it also mandated 16 hours of training, a $150 fee, and did not provide for any sort of reciprocity with other states and their CCW licenses. The House had previously failed to pass both a really good shall-issue carry bill sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps as well as a draconian may-issue bill sponsored by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago). Gov. Quinn and State Senate President Cullerton started attacking this bill the moment it was passed.
After the Memorial Day Weekend, the Senate Executive Committee (equivalent to a Rules Committee in other legislative bodies) took up the bill that passed the State House as well as one by Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago). It should be noted that the Executive Committee Democrats are reportedly, for the most part, Cullerton loyalists. Given that, it is not surprising that they refused to let the House bill out of committee and sent forth the draconian concealed carry bill.
Senate Democrats Tuesday blocked legislation backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan to permit Illinois gun owners to carry their weapons in public areas and gut local gun laws, opting instead for a stricter measure favored by gun-control advocates.
The votes by the Senate Executive Committee further muddied the prospects of the House and Senate agreeing on a single plan to meet a court-imposed June 9th deadline to pass concealed-carry legislation and end Illinois’ last-in-the-nation status barring gun owners from carrying their weapons with them.
Opposed by Gov. Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the speaker’s concealed-carry bill that would undo more than 100 communities’ gun-control laws died in the Senate committee on a 6-8 vote.
An alternative carried by Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) that would spare those local gun ordinances advanced on a 10-4 vote, with one member voting present.
Senate President Cullerton’s aim is to preserve home rule on firearms laws. His strategy seems to be to use the Raoul bill as his bargaining chip. In other words, he’ll be willing to trade off the worst parts of the Raoul bill in exchange for the ability of Chicago and its suburbs to still have their local gun control laws. As he said in the Chicago Tribune’s Clout Street:
With Friday’s adjournment deadline getting closer, Cullerton suggested a
compromise bill could take shape through further negotiations. “If we
get over this super pre-emption that wipes out all these ordinances, we
then have a concealed carry bill,” Cullerton said.
Other commentators such as Eric Zorn of Chicago Tribune and Rich Miller of the Capital Facts column have both noted that Cullerton is quite willing to have concealed carry laws determined by each and every one of the 208 local home-rule units in Illinois.
“In the case of concealed carry, some say we have to pass a bill,” Cullerton told Chicago reporters.
“The fact of the matter is, if we don’t pass a bill in Springfield, the city of Chicago, county of Cook, 208 home rule units can pass their own legislation.
“So, while we should pass a sensible bill to regulate it statewide, if we don’t it’s not the end of the world.”
It was the clearest statement yet from Cullerton that not passing a concealed carry bill might be the best way to go.
As you already know, a federal appellate court has given Illinois until June 9 to pass a new public carry law. If not, all of Illinois’ current carry laws will be struck down as unconstitutional on that date.
At first, liberals were being stampeded into passing new legislation. But Chicago’s mayor and his legislative allies have lately made it quietly known that not passing a bill might not be so bad. Chicago could pass a much stricter proposal than anything that could ever receive the General Assembly’s imprimatur, for instance.
Zorn warns of the chaos that would ensue if the General Assembly fails to pass a concealed carry law and it falls to the 208 local home-rule units to pass their own laws on the issue.
Imagine officials of more than 200 local home-rule units of government in Illinois — trustees, aldermen, councilors, commissioners, most of them part-timers — suddenly and urgently attempting to craft and pass a new ordinance to allow their constituents to carry concealed weapons in public.
Who is entitled to a permit? What training will it take to get a permit and who will provide and authorize it? Will permit-holders be able to carry their weapons on buses and trains? In taverns? In parks? In hospitals?
And so on. More than 200 political brush fires on one of our most divisive, contentious public policy issues breaking out all over the state nearly all at once. To be followed, inevitably, by nearly as many lawsuits filed by those who feel that the new laws continue to violate the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms.
Is that what we want? Because that’s what many observers think we’re going to get if the bickering Illinois General Assembly fails to agree on a concealed carry law by the June 9 deadline imposed late last year by a federal court.
Zorn warns the gun control forces that they may not like the result given the “notable and persistent enthusiasm gap” between gun rights supporters and gun control advocates.
So the passage of a concealed carry law comes down to this: a game of political chicken being played out amongst the Chicago power brokers. Madigan, Cullerton, Quinn, Emanuel, and Madigan’s daughter Lisa the AG are all Chicago politicians. It will come down to who is the most powerful. My bet right now is on Mike Madigan as he has served longer as Speaker than anyone, he is chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, and he is a ward committeeman in Chicago. None of the others can match that. In the meantime, the good people of Illinois remain at the mercy of the thugs.
UPDATE: WGN-TV out of Chicago had this on the concealed carry bill negotiations this evening:
A lot of what happened today happened behind closed doors in the office of House Speaker Mike Madigan in an effort to reach a compromise on concealed carry legislation.
Lawmakers want that done. They’re facing a court-imposed June 9th deadline. They’re close on that, and nearing a deal on expanding gambling.
In negotiations like this, it is always going to be the weaker party that makes the trek to the stronger party’s office.