Quinn opposes guns on public transit as concealed carry debate rolls on

SHARE Quinn opposes guns on public transit as concealed carry debate rolls on

SPRINGFIELD-Counter to the National Rifle Association’s demands, Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday that guns should not be allowed on buses and trains in the Chicago area.

“We do not want people carrying loaded weapons, concealed on their person, on mass transit in the Chicago area,” Quinn told reporters at a press conference in Springfield. “Whether it’s the CTA or Metra, I’m opposed to allowing concealed carry on our mass transit.”

Quinn’s statement follows a nearly four-hour concealed carry debate during a House Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday that touched on the prospects of allowing guns aboard public wheels. Testifying at the hearing, NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde said his organization considers allowing guns on public transportation a non-negotiable issue.

But in what could become a central point of conflict in the whole concealed carry debate, Quinn made clear he thinks an array of public places should be deemed gun-free.

“We do not want people carrying loaded weapons, concealed on their person, at our universities, at our mass transit, at our churches, sports stadiums,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure the public comes first when safety is at stake.”

Pointing to a federal appellate court’s ruling giving the state until June 9 to enact a concealed carry law, Quinn said the court’s opinion allows for “reasonable limitations to protect the public.”

If the Legislature fails to act by the deadline, gun-rights advocates have said the right to ‘constitutional carry’ would set in, giving Illinois residents without a permit free range to carry openly or concealed weapons and ammunition in any location.

But while the federal appeals court decided last December to give the General Assembly 180 days to make decisions on concealed carry, some gun-control advocates at Tuesday’s hearing, including Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office, consider the ruling a soft deadline.

Paul Castiglione, Alvarez’ director of policy, told committee members only the U.S. or Illinois Supreme courts could rule a statute – like the state’s ban on concealed carry – unconstitutional and that his office would continue to enforce the law as it is come June 9.

“We will definitely be prosecuting [Unlawful Use of a Weapon] cases,” he told the committee. “Absolutely…there’s no doubt about it.”

Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside), a former prosecutor and member of the House Judiciary Committee, asked Castiglione to “tread lightly” on his conclusion and warned it’s “really dangerous” for one state’s attorney to have a different view than other state’s attorneys.

“If there’s any sort of dissenting belief or belief that there’s no real ticking clock here, its going to cause a lot of us who wish to come to a constitutional, fair, balanced approach to this issue, a more difficult slog ahead,” Zalewski said.

On Wednesday, Quinn agreed that a deadline is a deadline.

“Well, you know, a federal court order is a serious matter,” Quinn said. “I take it seriously. I think we need to comply with it.

A second House hearing on concealed carry is scheduled for Feb. 22 in Chicago.

Meanwhile, on other issues, the governor voiced strong concerns about legislation sought by Commonwealth Edison that would effectively undo rate cuts imposed against the utility by the Illinois Commerce Commission.

“I think it’s disturbing that utilities, and not just that company, but all the utilities think they can kind of go around the Illinois Commerce Commission and sort of make the General Assembly the super commerce commission,” Quinn said. “That’s not a good path to follow in my opinion.”

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