SPRINGFIELD-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.
"I think we're close. I think we're very close," Raoul said. "But I think there are some things that are very important not to yield on."
Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) urged passage of Raoul's legislation, saying a solution on the concealed-carry stalemate would take place if gun-rights advocates would simply back off their demands for a uniform, statewide set of gun laws.
"If we get over this super preemption that wipes out all these ordinances, we have a concealed-carry bill," Cullerton said.
But state Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) countered that establishing uniformity is important to spare gun owners with concealed-carry permits from becoming unwitting lawbreakers if they unknowingly venture into towns with laws restricting the type of guns and ammunition allowed.
"We just felt there's too much ordinances out there that the law-abiding citizen won't know from one town to the other," said Phelps, who joined state Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton) in presenting the Madigan-backed House bill to the Senate committee.
The votes represented a response to a December ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which in December tossed out Illinois' prohibition on concealed carry and ordered Quinn and lawmakers to come up with a law allowing it by June 9.
The Madigan-backed legislation would have imposed 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 same legislation also would have set 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 have invalidated local governments' gun-control laws, such as Chicago and Cook County's ban on assault weapons.
Republicans on the Senate committee voted for the Madigan version but balked at Raoul's plan.
"I really do believe uniformity is a good thing to have," said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont).
"It's irrefutable evidence where we have the strongest gun laws, we have the most violence. I don't know how any proponent of local control can argue against that overwhelming fact," she continued. "It says to me our approach isn't right."
While Raoul's legislation is now positioned for a full Senate vote, a Cullerton spokeswoman said there were no plans to call it Tuesday to give both sides of the gun issue more time to try finding middle ground on a concealed-carry bill.
After Tuesday's votes, Quinn weighed in for Raoul's legislation.
"Senator Kwame Raoul's legislation provides a reasonable framework that would protect critical gun safety ordinances across Illinois," the governor said in a prepared statement. "This bill would place reasonable limits and restrictions on guns in Illinois while protecting the important principle of home rule. We must ensure that Illinois municipalities can continue to take additional steps to ensure public safety for their residents."