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New Madigan-backed concealed-carry bill surfaces in House

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SPRINGFIELD-A new push to allow Illinois gun owners to carry their weapons in public surfaced Wednesday with backing from House Speaker Michael Madigan and prohibitions on allowing guns in a broad swath of areas in and around Chicago.

The legislation carried by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), a gun-rights advocate, is scheduled to be heard in a House committee Thursday with Madigan predicting a floor vote Friday.

"My expectation is there'll be sufficient votes" to pass the legislation to the Senate, Madigan said, though he indicated there is no agreement with Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) to call it for a vote before the General Assembly's scheduled May 31 adjournment.

Both Madigan and Phelps said they don't expect the National Rifle Association to oppose the legislation. A spokesman for the NRA could not be reached Wednesday evening.

The amendment to Senate Bill 2193 would prohibit gun owners from carrying their weapons in 22 different areas, including public trains and buses, government buildings, a "public gathering" like Taste of Chicago, parks and forest preserves, libraries and schools.

"Wherever the city of Chicago requested prohibitive locations, they're in the bill," Madigan told reporters.

Madigan characterized the legislation as a "shall carry" concealed-carry measure that would require the state to issue permits to qualified applicants, but it would grant police the ability to object to any candidates deemed unfit.

A seven-member panel would be set up to adjudicate any rejected concealed-carry permits. The group would be appointed by the governor and could consist of former federal judges and FBI agents, Madigan said.

The seventh member would be a "qualified psychiatrist," Madigan said.

Gov. Pat Quinn and the Legislature face a June 9 deadline to write a concealed-carry law after a federal appeals court in Chicago last December struck down the state's last-in-the-nation prohibition against carrying guns in public.

Phelps described the amendment as a compromise that ultimately would benefit gun owners.

"You sometimes at the end don't get everything you want. I think with the court ruling that mandated us to do something, this is a good first step for Illinois gun owners to exercise their Second Amendment rights and get something started because we've come way too far to turn back now," Phelps told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Sometimes, you've got to give and take."

But gun-control advocates said they intend to fight the amendment, saying it would undo an array of gun laws in Chicago and Cook County, including both governments' assault weapons bans.

"It's a preemption of all gun laws. Everything the city has done for guns in the home, training, licensing, all that's gone. Assault weapons ban in Chicago and Cook County would no longer be around," Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, told the Sun-Times.

"It's very tough to go back on those things," she said.

Daley said, however, she was pleased with the language barring concealed weapons on the Chicago Transit Authority, Pace and Metra, a sentiment echoed by a top Regional Transportation Authority executive.

"That's good. We are very opposed to allowing individuals to have concealed-carry on transit," said Jordan Matyas, the RTA's chief of staff. "We hope any version of the bill that passes has that exemption."

Contributing: Rosalind Rossi

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