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Legislators deliberate where to allow concealed carry

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SPRINGFIELD-Illinois residents could be permitted to carry handguns in parks and cars, said a key Chicago state senator involved in the evolving gun-control debate at the Capitol.

"There are going to be a number of places that are obvious places that we want to protect, but there are going to be some others more in the gray area," said Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), who introduced a concealed carry bill Tuesday.

"I imagine parks - parks are very public. I think parks are a place that you could have it."

The remarks were in response to Gov. Pat Quinn's annual State of the State address, in which the governor mentioned 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton who was recently murdered in a Chicago city park.

In his speech, Quinn called for a comprehensive public safety agenda that would keep guns out of everyday places like schools, sports stadiums and shopping malls.

But state Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), who as a retired Lee County sheriff of 20 years can carry anywhere except on a plane or in a federal building, said he would consider allowing guns in shopping malls to prevent incidences like the shooting that took three lives at a Portland, Ore. mall last December.

Bivins, the Senate Republican point person on concealed carry, thinks proper training should be the primary focus.
"In law enforcement most of your liability comes, when lawsuits fly, from lack of training," he said. "If you're going to discharge your weapon you have to know that you cant discharge it with a crowd of people behind what you're shooting at."

The need to act on gun legislation weighs heavily on lawmakers since a December federal appeals court ruling struck down the state's concealed carry ban, giving the governor and legislators until June 9 to make Illinois the 50th state to allow some form of concealed carry.

Quinn also included in his speech a plea for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. But including that initiative in a concealed carry plan would be "a dangerous approach," Raoul said.

"I'm for an assault weapons ban, but the focus of the discussion needs to be on the secondary market, the transferring of guns," he said. "And I don't see the focus of this gun debate being on that."

Sen. Bivins agreed that an assault weapons ban needs to be left out of the concealed carry debate, saying, "It's just an emotional response to a problem."

"The assault weapons ban - somewhat of a red herring I think - doesn't matter if you're pro-gun or anti-gun," he said.

Meanwhile, the House chamber will address gun-control issues later this month as Speaker Michael Madigan has scheduled hearings in the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 19 in Springfield and Feb. 22 in Chicago.

House Bill 997, sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), has gotten the most attention in that chamber with bipartisan support and allows licensed residents to carry handguns openly or concealed on their person and in vehicles.

Phelps' bill prohibits licensees from carrying in most bars, parts of airports, elementary and secondary schools, college and university buildings, courthouses, casinos, sporting stadiums and arenas, public libraries, jails and prisons, residential mental health facilities and child care facilities.

And while private landlords would not be allowed to prohibit residents from carrying, business owners could. Finally, guns would be prohibited from most state buildings, however, state legislators could allow licensees to bring firearms into their district offices.

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