SPRINGFIELD—Before Illinois gun owners have even begun carrying their firearms in public places, several state lawmakers are aiming to change the state’s still-untested concealed-carry law.
A flurry of bills have been introduced since the start of this year, but House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, appears not to be interested in changing the parameters of a law passed last summer and still not fully implemented.
One bill, introduced by Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton, would allow gun owners who have concealed-carry permits to take their weapons on CTA buses and trains, as well as other forms of public transportation.
Another measure, sponsored by Costello in the House and Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, in the Senate, would let gun owners with concealed-carry permits take their weapons into places that are licensed to serve alcohol for special events hosted by “educational, fraternal, political, civic, religious or non-profit organizations.”
Costello said he wants to fine-tune the concealed carry law to “ensure that we are not unintentionally turning law-abiding citizens into criminals.”
“Many of us believe that criminalizing the responsible carry of concealed weapons at certain private and public events and on public transportation, which many residents rely on as their sole source of transportation, is a government overreach,” Costello said in a prepared statement.
Last February, House members roundly rejected allowing gun owners to carry concealed handguns on public transportation, approving a prohibition on the practice 65-45.
Earlier legislation put forth in the Senate by Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake and in the House by Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, would prevent gun owners from bringing their firearms into any location that serves alcohol, not just in bars or in other establishments that rely heavily on the sale of alcohol.
But a top aide to Madigan was quick to tamp down any expectations revamping concealed carry was high on the speaker’s spring-time agenda.
“We’re still putting the law into effect,” said Steve Brown, spokesperson to House Speaker Michael Madigan. “Most people would want to see how the implementation goes before trying to change it.”
A test vote on making restaurants that serve alcohol off-limits to concealed-carry permit holders happened last February in the House, but it only gained 53 votes, seven shy of the 60-vote threshold typically needed to pass a bill in the chamber. Even so, Williams said the idea deserves a second look.
“Guns and alcohol don’t mix, regardless of where the mixing occurs,” Williams said. “I think we’re all aware that people can drink just as much in a restaurant as in a bar. The danger of holding a weapon while drinking is the same, wherever you are.”
Williams also voiced opposition to Costello’s bid to reopen debate on allowing concealed weapons on mass transit.
“I’ve been on a CTA car: There’s no safe way to discharge a weapon,” she said. “It would just be more of a danger.”