SPRINGFIELD-In a key test vote, Chicago-area mass-transit users couldn't take concealed weapons on public trains or buses under legislation that moved forward in the Illinois House Tuesday during a more than a seven-hour session on guns.
But in later action, the House went on record supporting a broad concealed-carry amendment written by gun-rights advocates, an initiative that was adopted shortly before 9 p.m. by a 67-48 margin. It explicitly permitted guns on public transportation.
The mass-transit amendment by Rep. Deb Mell (D-Chicago) and backed by gun-control advocates advanced 65-45 with four voting "present." It represented one of the biggest of more than a dozen votes the House took Tuesday that could help shape a broader concealed-carry bill that likely will surface in the chamber this spring.
"I've been on trains before where there might be a character who's a little agitated," Mell said. "Just the thought that people might be pulling out guns and there being a big shootout, I just think that's too risky."
Gun-rights advocates argued that L riders and those aboard CTA and Pace buses and Metra or Amtrak trains should have the ability to protect themselves against armed criminals under a constitutionally protected right to bear arms.
"We're going after the good guys, not the bad guys, representative, and that's what is so disheartening about his legislation," said Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica), who voted against her plan.
Mell's amendment was one of more than a dozen amendments that were considered Tuesday in the House in response to a December federal court decision that threw out Illinois' prohibition against allowing gun owners to carry their weapons in public - the only such ban in the country.
An amendment pushed by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), the leading House champion of concealed-carry, won a majority in the House but fell short of the 71-vote supermajority that could be required in the House once a final concealed-carry package gets voted on. That supermajority also would be needed to fend off a possible veto by Gov. Pat Quinn.
Backed by the National Rifle Association, Phelps' amendment dictates that the State Police "shall" issue $80 concealed-carry permits to those who undergo training and haven't been adjudicated as mentally ill. His plan would bar concealed weapons in government buildings, bars, airports, schools, child-care centers, casinos, amusement parks, stadiums, arenas, community colleges and universities.
The state would be authorized to revoke a concealed-carry permit only in cases where someone violated the law five times or more in two years.
"We are under a court order. We believe we have a reasonable bill that complies with the court's decision and direction," Phelps said. "We should have one standard for our state."
The votes served as important tests on a variety of gun-carrying restrictions that could be incorporated into whatever final concealed-carry handiwork that House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) allows to be voted out of his chamber later this spring.
The House voted Tuesday in favor of amendments to bar concealed weapons in or around schools, child-care centers, casinos, government buildings and stadiums and arenas.
But amendments banning the weapons in amusement parks, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol and at protests, rallies and other public gatherings failed.
The string of votes stirred angry protests from downstate and suburban House members aligned with the National Rifle Association.
Critics expressed opposition to an exercise they said ignored the state's major problems while providing fodder for direct-mail attack pieces in the 2014 legislative campaigns.
"Why can't we do this right?" yelled Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst). "We're the laughingstock of the nation. We don't talk about pensions today. We're not talking about the budget today.
"It's gun week here in the state Capitol, so we'll play these games until we can get roll calls that can be used against every body so we can say, 'There's Reboletti, he wants guns in schools,'" he said. "More nonsense."