Illinois became the last state in the nation to allow public possession of concealed guns as lawmakers rushed Tuesday to finalize a proposal ahead of a federal court's deadline.
Both chambers of the Legislature voted to override changes Gov. Pat Quinn made to the bill they approved more than a month ago. Even some critics of the law argued it was better to approve something rather than risk the courts allowing virtually unregulated concealed weapons in Chicago, which has endured severe gun violence in recent months.
The Senate voted 41-17 in favor of the override Tuesday afternoon after the House voted 77-31, margins that met the three-fifths threshold needed to set aside the amendatory veto. Quinn had used his veto authority to suggest changes such as prohibiting guns in restaurants that serve alcohol and limiting gun-toting citizens to one firearm at a time.
Quinn had predicted a "showdown in Springfield" after a week of Chicago appearances to drum up support for the changes he made in the amendatory veto. The Chicago Democrat faces a tough re-election fight next year and has already drawn a primary challenge from former White House chief of state Bill Daley, who has criticized the governor's handling of the debate over guns and other issues.
Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democrat from southern Illinois, predicted a history-making day in which lawmakers would dismiss Quinn's changes as politically motivated.
"He's trying to cater to, pander to Cook County," Phelps said, referring to the nation's second most-populous county, which encompasses Chicago. "And I don't blame him ... because that's where his votes are."
The law as approved by the Legislature permits anyone with a Firearm Owner's Identification card who has passed a background check and undergone gun-safety training of 16 hours — longest of any state — to obtain a concealed-carry permit for $150.
The Illinois State Police would have six months to set up a system to start accepting applications. Spokeswoman Monique Bond said police expect 300,000 applications in the first year.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that it's unconstitutional for Illinois to ban concealed carry. The court gave state officials until June 9 to rectify the shortfall, and later extended that by a month.
Opinions varied about what would have happened had a law not taken effect. Gun supporters said it would have meant with no law governing gun possession, any type of firearm could be carried anywhere, at any time. Those supporting stricter gun control said local communities would have been able to set up tough restrictions.
With the negotiated law, gun-rights advocates got the permissive law they wanted, instead of a New York-style plan that gives law enforcement authorities wide discretion over who gets permits. In exchange, Chicago Democrats repulsed by gun violence got a long list of places deemed off limits to guns, including schools, libraries, parks and mass transit buses and trains.
But one part of the compromise had to do with establishments that serve alcohol. The law will allow diners to carry weapons into restaurants and other establishments where liquor comprises no more than 50 percent of gross sales. One of the main provisions of Quinn's amendatory veto was to nix guns in businesses that serve any alcohol.
He also wants to limit citizens to carrying one gun at a time, a gun that is completely concealed, not "mostly concealed" as the initiative decrees. He prefers banning guns from private property unless an owner puts up a sign allowing guns — the reverse of what's in the proposal — and would give employers more power to prohibit guns at work.
Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, gave a nod to Quinn's wishes by putting before his caucus new legislation that incorporated the changes Quinn prefers. But Democrats had not said by early Tuesday whether they would vote on the bill. Phelps said he didn't know whether the House would consider it, although House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, kept the chamber in session in case a new bill arrived from the Senate.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont said it's clear the issue would be addressed again in the future but the Senate should focus Tuesday on meeting the court deadline.
"For today, we should stick with the agreement that was in place," Radogno said. "It's important to follow through."