Reluctant Chicago Democrats change tune on concealed carry
By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD — Democratic leaders in Chicago admit that they cannot ignore a federal court’s ruling that Illinois must allow some people to legally carry a weapon in the state. But that doesn’t mean they support concealed carry.
Chicago aldermen, Chicago police officers, and even the head of Cook County government all told state lawmakers Friday morning that while the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that concealed carry should be legalized, Illinois lawmakers can craft a very tough law.
“Elementary, secondary and higher education buildings should be a gun-free zone,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle told lawmakers. “Government owned and operated buildings should be gun-free zones. … One should not be able to possess a weapon in a hospital or a nursing home. Houses of worship should be gun-free zones.”
Preckwinkle also wants local governments, notably Cook County and the city of Chicago, to be able to opt out of any statewide concealed-carry law.
“There are 102 counties in the state of Illinois,” Preckwinkle said. “Given the special circumstances in Cook County, it might be something we would want to consider.”
But Preckwinkle did break with another of Cook County’s Democratic leaders. Preckwinkle said she would “abide” by the 7th Circuit Courts ruling, bucking the polic director for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who earlier this week told lawmakers they could ignore the federal court.
If Cook County and Chicago cannot opt-out of Illinois’ concealed carry law, other Chicago leaders want that law to be as tough as possible.
“I ask as you endeavor on the issue of concealed carry … that you keep in mind the public interest and the public safety of the residence throughout the state of Illinois,” Chicago Alderman Harry Osterman pleaded at a legislative hearing on concealed carry. “Especially in those areas that have significant gun violence like Chicago.”
Osterman said any concealed carry law must have tough, mandatory background checks. Osterman also would like lawmakers to tie concealed carry to other gun laws, particularly laws that target lost and stolen weapons.
Chicago Alderman Willie Cochran said before lawmakers allow someone to legally carry a gun, the state needs to teach people the rules.
“Chicago Illinois is a culture that is not astute on firearm possession and concealed carry at this point,” Cochran said. “I am not supporting concealed carry unless we get education to go along with it.”
Illinois is facing a June 9 deadline from the federal court to either pass a concealed-carry law or see anyone with a valid firearm owners’ card be able to carry any weapon they want almost anywhere they choose.
State Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highland Park, said that is not a lot of time, and Illinois likely will not be ready.
“Delay any implementation of any law or any issuance of a permit until the Illinois State Police and all of the county clerks across the state can certify that they have the processes in place to actually implement the laws that are already in place. Because they are not working,” Drury said as he pointed to an audit of the state police that showed a huge backlog in forearm owner identity cards.
The balance between how Illinois will allow people to legally carry a weapon seems to be the only unanswered question for lawmakers.
On Friday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s request for a new hearing on the concealed-carry ruling.
Contact Benjmain Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org
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