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Illinois legislature divided on concealed carry law

Chicago community leaders announced a new coalition Monday to oppose legalizing concealed weapons in Illinois.

The state legislature could vote on a concealed carry bill in the veto session that begins Nov. 27. The bill, originally sponsored in 2011 by downstate Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-118th), has support of downstate legislators on both sides of the aisle. In November's election, ten rural counties overwhelmingly passed non-binding referenda in favor of concealed carry.

But Cook County has long leaned towards stricter gun control laws.

“Monday mornings are usually pretty sad because we pick up the papers and we see the headline of the three or four murdered and fifteen or seventeen shot, and read the details about what happened in the City of Chicago,” said Alderman Ricardo Munoz (22nd) at a press conference Monday at Chicago Temple for the Coalition Against Concealed Carry. “I can’t fathom the idea of going to the mall and just thinking that under that coat over there, or in that purse there might be a weapon.”

Munoz was joined by Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, Reverend Michael Pfleger, and other community leaders including Mary Kay Mace, whose daughter was killed in the 2008 mass shooting in Northern Illinois University. The speakers pointed to a poll sponsored by gun control activists that said 65 percent of Illinois voters opposed allowing concealed loaded weapons.

“Our urban areas do not want concealed carry,“ Suffredin said. He pointed out that the rural counties supporting concealed carry represent a small portion of Illinois voters.

Valinda Rowe, spokeswoman for gun-owner advocacy group Illinois Carry, acknowledged that there is a divide between Illinois’ urban and rural residents on gun control issues. But she said her statewide organization’s constituents come from all walks of life.

“Our members are made up of all different political backgrounds - we have conservatives, we have liberals, we have libertarians, that all support the Second Amendment,” Rowe said. “We’re not talking about mentally ill people or those who are a danger to themselves or others. We’re talking about law-abiding citizens.”

The house bill would require gun owners to obtain concealed carry licenses and take firearm safety courses. It would also prohibit concealed weapons in most government buildings, including schools and libraries. The bill fell six votes short of the required three-fifths majority in a house vote in May.

Illinois is now the only state that does not allow concealed firearms. In 2011, Wisconsin became the 49th state to pass a concealed carry law. 

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