House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) argues concealed carry-gun legislation while on the House floor Friday. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois House overwhelmingly voted Friday to lift the state's prohibition on allowing people to carry concealed weapons by passing legislation favored by House Speaker Michael Madigan and gun-rights advocates, but Gov. Pat Quinn and the top Senate Democrat vowed to kill it.
Friday's lopsided House vote did little to cut through the legislative haze of how -- or if -- the state intends to comply with a federal court order requiring an end within about two weeks to Illinois' last-in-the-nation prohibition against gun owners carrying their weapons in public places.
"This legislation is wrong for Illinois," Quinn said after Friday's House vote. "It was wrong [Thursday] in committee. It's wrong today. And it's wrong for the future of public safety in our state.
"I will not support this bill, and I will work with members of the Illinois Senate to stop it in its tracks," Quinn said.
The vote came after gun-rights advocates predicted their plan would lower crime rates despite warnings from critics in the legislative chamber that the bill is "dangerous."
"Concealed carry works. In every place it's been in this country, crime has gone down dramatically," said state Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), the bill's chief House sponsor.
His measure -- backed by Madigan but opposed by the Southwest Side Democrat's daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan -- passed the House 85-30, with one membervoting present. The bill, which needed 71 votes to pass, now moves to the Senate.
Besides Cullerton and Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle lined up against the legislation, describing it as a dangerous overreach that would flood Illinois' streets with more guns and gut local gun-control laws.
Friday's roll call, which carried more than enough votes to override a Quinn veto, represents a response to a December ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. That federal appeals panel in Chicago tossed out Illinois' prohibition on concealed carry and ordered Quinn and lawmakers to come up with a law allowing it by June 9.
Phelps' legislation would impose a uniform standard across the state that would permit gun owners to obtain five-year, concealed-carry permits for $150 after undergoing training and background checks.
The legislation also sets out nearly two dozen locations where concealed weapons would be banned, including in public trains and buses, parks, the Cook County Forest Preserves, government buildings, schools, museums, libraries and public gatherings like city street fairs or the Taste of Chicago.
The measure would invalidate local governments' gun-control laws, such as Chicago and Cook County's ban on assault weapons.
"The 7th Circuit had a very specific directive," said Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), an opponent of Phelps' legislation. "That directive was to provide for concealed carry in the state of Illinois. We go so far beyond that in this bill by preemption and, in effect, repealing, invalidating, hundreds if not thousands of local laws and ordinances. I think we need to think long and hard before we do this."
Another "no" vote, Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago), ridiculed the fact that the National Rifle Association wasn't publicly advocating for the legislation even though the bill gave the group much of what it wanted.
"The idea the NRA is 'neutral' on this is like saying that there's a fox 'neutral' on an appropriation to defund henhouse security," Mitchell said.
The roll call was driven by support from the powerful House speaker, who has been a long-time opponent to concealed-carry but said he switched sides in the debate because of the court edict and after watching the results of a series of House votes on the issue earlier this spring.
In mid-April, concealed-carry legislation drafted by gun-control advocates failed by drawing only 31 votes in the House. A day later, a bill written by gun-rights forces drew 64 votes, a total below the 71 votes it needed but still far more than its rival plan.
Madigan said the NRA-backed plan originally had 75 votes before he worked against it and peeled off 11 votes.
"Those vote counts are very telling," Madigan said in explaining his new posture on concealed-carry. "They tell the reason why I stand before you today, changing a position, which I've advocated for well over 20 years. But that's what happens in a democracy, where there's free and open debate and people are called upon to cast votes in legislative bodies.
"Over time," the speaker continued, "the people who sent them to legislative bodies change their thinking. And in a democracy, it's not only OK to do that, it's expected that there be changes in thinking by people and legislators consistent with how the people in the country feel."
After the vote, Madigan predicted the legislation would rack up a similar roll call if it gets called in the Senate before next Friday's scheduled legislative adjournment, a scenario Cullerton would not address after the House vote.
The Senate president said he intends to measure support for the bill within his 40-member caucus on Monday, but he made clear his intention to try burying the bill and offering up some form of legislative Plan B on guns.
"I'm going to try to defeat the bill, and we're going to have a caucus on it on Monday," he told reporters.
"Maybe we'll have a caucus and see there is no support, and we'll go ahead with an alternative. Once the members realize there's an alternative that's very similar, almost identical to the House alternative, maybe we can avoid this," he continued. "Maybe we can focus our attention on concealed carry, which is what the courts tasked us with doing, and then solve that part of the problem we have facing us."
While Emanuel's administration was silent on the legislation during a Thursday House committee hearing, the mayor's office later issued a statement expressing opposition to the bill.
Still, a dozen city Democrats voted in favor of Phelps' legislation Friday. They included Rep. Maria Antonia Berrios, Rep. Daniel Burke, Rep. John D'Amico, Rep. Monique Davis, Rep. Mary Flowers, Rep. La Shawn Ford, Rep. Frances Ann Hurley, Rep. Silvana Tabares and Rep. Andre Thapedi.
Suburban Democrats voting for the legislation included Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), Rep. Fred Crespo (D-Hoffman Estates), Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood), Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights), Rep. Keith Farnham (D-Elgin), Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), Rep. Thaddeus Jones (D-Calumet City), Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Norridge), Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan), Rep. Al Riley (D-Olympia Fields), Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island), Rep. Carol Sente (Vernon Hills) and Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside).
The full House Republican delegation supported the bill.
"We have the Second Amendment of the Constitution, and we in the state of Illinois have chosen to ignore that over many, many years. And I've said on this House floor before and I'll say it again: Why is it that we in the state of Illinois are the very last to do this?" said state Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), a long-time concealed-carry backer. "Do we think we're smarter? If we're so smart, why do we have a city that has the highest crime rate in the nation if this works so well by not having concealed carry?"
Madigan's daughter, the attorney general, still has not decided whether to appeal the federal appeals court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court but, like Cullerton, does not like the way Phelps' legislation is crafted. As with Emanuel, her office issued a statement against the bill but remained silent during Thursday's House hearing.
Both her office and the speaker confirmed Friday the two spoke about her position on the legislation.
"Throughout the session, our legislative team has expressed to legislators that the [attorney general] has policy concerns about the broad pre-emption of home-rule authority and the 'shall issue' approach," said Natalie Bauer, a spokeswoman for the attorney general.
Asked what how the speaker responded when the attorney general raised those concerns to him, Bauer said, "You'll have to ask the speaker himself about his response."
When asked that specific question, the speaker displayed a lawyer-like, poker face.
"Well, that was a family discussion," he said. "So, it's privileged."