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Lawmakers in Fox Valley eye next step in concealed carry law

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Updated: January 13, 2013 11:09AM

Barring further appeals by the state, lawmakers have just about six months to craft new legislation allowing Illinois residents to carry a concealed firearm — just like the 49 other U.S. states.

In a split opinion, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago reversed a lower court ruling in two downstate cases that upheld the state’s longstanding prohibition against carrying concealed weapons.

That ruling included a provision that stayed the order for 180 days “to allow the Illinois legislature to craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety and the Second Amendment as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public.”

A few hours after the ruling Tuesday, local lawmakers said they should be ready to take up the legislation — in whatever form it takes — when the General Assembly resumes in January.

State Sen. Mike Noland, D-Elgin, believes the new legislation will at some point come through the Senate’s criminal law committee, which he chairs.

“What the court is telling us is 49 other states can’t be wrong. Illinois needs to comply with what is now a national norm,” Noland said Tuesday.

No politics

By the appeals court making the ruling that the law must be changed, “they are making it easy on us and taking the politics out of it,” Noland said.

He believes much of the discussion will center on education for gun owners — education on when and where they can have a gun, as well as education on proper handling and use of a weapon.

Because even when a bill is passed and presumably signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, Noland noted, there still will be regulations on where and when a gun can be allowed as well as who can legally purchase a firearm. Private businesses also can ban guns on their premises without violating constitutional rights, Noland noted.

“As in other states … those seeking the permits will undergo an instruction course by those who sell (firearms) and provide instruction. We have to make sure that we never, as best we can, have another incident like we did at Northern Illinois (University),” Noland said, referring to the Feb. 14, 2008, mass shooting in DeKalb. In that incident, five people were killed and 21 injured before the shooter, Steven Kazmierczak, then shot himself.

Applicants who are emotionally unstable or who have other “red flag alerts” should not get a permit, Noland said.

“There has to be some type of ... alerts the state police or other state agency have that this is an individual who should not have a FOID (firearm owners identification card) or to own a firearm. There is much we can do to examine what might be done, in order for those red flags to appear and for us to respond to them,” Noland said.

Private property owners such as a bank, a restaurant or a nightclub can also impose restrictions, he noted. “That does not violate a constitutional right,” and other restrictions apply to guns near schools or in courtrooms, he said.

New bill coming

Legislation already has been proposed that addresses the state’s current concealed carry law, noted state Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville.

“We had a bill, House Bill 148, on concealed carry, and we will be seeing another bill in the 180-day time frame,” Senger said.

That bill, which was referred to the rules committee in March, creates the Family and Personal Protection Act and “provides that the Department of State Police shall issue a license to carry a loaded or unloaded handgun to an applicant that meets specified qualifications, has provided the application and specified documentation, and has submitted the requisite fees,” along with other regulations.

“There will be reasonable limitations, as far as carrying a weapon in public,” Senger said.

House GOP Leader Tom Cross of Oswego was not available for comment Tuesday. State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, declined to make a statement on the court ruling.

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