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Gov. Quinn Changes Concealed Carry Legislation

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Pat Quinn

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn speaks at a news conference Tuesday, July 2, 2013, in Chicago after using his amendatory veto power to tweak the concealed carry legislation sent to him after months of debate and negotiation over the measure. The move puts Illinois legislators on the spot to decide whether to reject Quinn's changes before a federal judge's July 9 deadline for Illinois to adopt a concealed carry law. At left is Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau. (Scott Eisen/AP)

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn used his amendatory veto powers on Tuesday to revise the concealed-carry gun legislation that a federal appeals court says Illinois must adopt.

A federal appeals court ruled in December that it was unconstitutional for Illinois to ban the public possession of concealed firearms and gave it until July 9 to comply. Illinois is currently the only state in the country to ban concealed carry.

Speaking at a news conference in Chicago, Quinn explained that he is changing the bill.

“There are serious flaws in this bill that jeopardize public safety of the people of Illinois," said Quinn, who was surrounded by 100 anti-violence advocates, who cheered as he spoke. "Therefore I’ve used my power under the constitution of our state to make important changes, common sense changes to protect the safety of our people.”

Legislators voted to ban guns in bars and other businesses where more than half of sales come from booze - Quinn wants to forbid guns anywhere that serves alcohol.

The plan approved by the General Assembly sets no limits on how many guns someone could carry - the governor wants to limit it to one gun, and one magazine holding no more than ten rounds of ammunition.

Quinn also wants to flip the standard of presumption -- the original bill requires store, restaurant or movie theaters that don't want guns to put up signs saying so. The governor wants to reverse it, so guns would be forbidden unless a private businesses expressly allows them.

"We must, number one, make sure that the standards here are for the public safety, not for the advancement of the National Rifle Associating," Quinn said. "I'm governor of the people of Illinois. My job is to advance their interest: the common good, and those who are listening to the NRA should listen to the people of Illinois."

"Whether it's a movie theater, or whether it's church," Quinn added.  "When you got to church you ought to have signs saying 'No guns allowed?'"

As Quinn listed his recommendations, he was surrounded and applauded by relatives of shooting victims, like Terrell Bosley. Her son was shot to death in Chicago on April 4, 2006 while coming outside of a church.

"We got you governor," Bosley said, expressing her support of Quinn's changes to the bill. "So, if you need us -- well we already there. We wake up every single day, without our child. The pain is horrible. You don't want to be in this situation. So we ask that you stand behind him too. So you won't end up in our shoes."

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Gov. Quinn is putting public safety at risk by not rewriting a provision in the concealed carry bill that calls for law enforcement agencies to object to individual concealed carry applications if they determine the applicants are dangerous.

Dart on Tuesday wrote a letter to Quinn that said law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to handle what he expects to be an avalanche of applications.

He said that while applicants will pay fees for their permits that money doesn't go to specific law enforcement agencies to investigate their applications.

In order for Quinn's changes to go into effect, lawmakers need to get behind the revised plan.

The measure's sponsor - Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) accuses Quinn of catering to "Chicago gun grabbers."

Despite Quinn's harsh rhetoric against legislators taking their cues from the NRA, defeat wouldn't be the worst outcome for him at this late date.

Phelps says Quinn doesn't want to be responsible for pushing the state past the federal court's July 9 deadline.

"The last person that would want to go off the cliff is Gov. Quinn," Phelps said. "He doesn't need that. Because then it will be mayhem, the Wild West and it will all come back on him."

Phelps promptly filed paperwork to override Quinn's veto, and the General Assembly is scheduled to vote early next week. Broad, bipartisan majorities supported the proposal the first time around -- more than enough to override the governor.

Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana) said the House would be back in session on Tuesday to take up the override.  Her chamber would have to act before the Senate.

Jakobsson said the alternative is a wide-open gun legislation that no one wants.

"If we were to reject this amendatory message, then we would have concealed carry wherever with none of the regulations that are in the bills that the sponsor and other people really worked on for a long time."

Jakobsson said she 'could live with' a couple of Quinn's changes to the measure, but said "we have to keep in mind that this was a negotiated bill, and the sponsor worked on this for a very long time." She said she belives the override will happen.

Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) called the governor’s amendatory veto 'a political stunt.'  He said Quinn is trying to pander to his ‘narrow base’ of support prior to next spring’s Democratic primary.

Rose said he is confident lawmakers will be called back to Springfield, and override the governor’s veto prior to Tuesday’s federal court-mandated deadline. He said the delay in getting concealed carry approved has created a flurry of measures in different counties.

“Macon County’s got one set of rules, Piatt County’s got another set of rules - Douglas County hasn’t said what they’re going to do yet," Rose said. "And that doesn’t count all the home rule municipal rule and municipal units and villages underneath the counties that will come up with different rules. And the state police has said they’re going to arrest you anyway.”

Rose said if lawmakers do not come back to override the governor, and a wide-open gun law takes effect in Illinois on Tuesday, than Quinn has no one to blame but himself. He also noted the final vote in each chamber on the original concealed carry measure was not even close, saying lawmakers carried out the will of the people.

Quinn's critics say the governor's proposed changes are all a political stunt.

Todd Vandermyde is a lobbyist with the National Rifle Association. He said Quinn would need more than 20 lawmakers to flip their votes.

Vandermyde accused Quinn of using his amendatory veto to score political points with residents of Chicago and the north suburbs, where gun regulations are embraced by local governments. Vandermyde said he does not think Quinn’s changes will get the needed support from the legislature.

“I think that what he just did is tell downstate, ‘You’re irrelevant.’ I think he just told the collar counties, ‘You’re irrelevant.’ He’s gonna play to a very narrow liberal, North Shore constituency,” Vandermyde said.

The president of an East Central Illinois gun-rights group, Guns Save Life, John Boch said Quinn's changes in the gun measure are ludicrous.

"Even the people in the Illinois legislature who are opposed to gun ownership, they're not going to go for his changes," he said.  "It's all just wasting everybody's time, and the governor is just a farce.  If he believes that one gun and ten rounds of ammunition is good enough for you and me to protect our families, then why doesn't he unilaterally enact that for his protective detail?"

Bill Daley, who's looking to grab the Democratic nomination for governor from Quinn, likewise calls legislators' plan a bad bill. He blames Quinn for failing to push his changes during the many months the General Assembly was negotiating the proposal.