From Illinois Public Radio - News -

Illinois House Committee Considers Concealed Carry

Gun-rights enthusiasts filled a hearing room in Springfield as a House committee heard from activists on both sides of the issue.

The House Judiciary Committee's hearing focused less on banning certain types of guns or ammunition clips, and more on concealed carry.

Illinois is the only state in the country to not allow concealed carry.

But that’s likely to change soon – a federal court in Chicago recently mandated lawmakers in Springfield put something on the books by spring.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is appealing the federal court ruling. If the court takes her case, it could delay the June deadline.

Thousands of people submitted requests to talk during Tuesday hearing in Springfield. That list was whittled down to four panels, mostly made up of lobbyists or representatives of groups invested in the discussion – people lawmakers have heard from before.

The mother of a victim of the deadly Northern Illinois University shootings five years ago asked lawmakers to let local police decide who gets permits to carry concealed weapons.

Mary Kay Mace, whose daughter, Ryanne, died in the NIU shootings, told the committee that local law enforcement officials know their citizens and should be able to deny gun permits even if background checks don't show any problems.

"In the aftermath of the NIU shooting, I've found out that the gunman had an extensive and well-documented history of mental illness," Mace said. "Despite that, and the fact that he was discharged from the military for lying about his mental-health history, he was able to legally purchase the firearms he used in his massacre."

Last week marked the five year anniversary of the NIU shootings, when former NIU student Steven Kazmierczak shot the five students before taking his own life.  At the times, Kazmierczak was a student on the University of Illinois’ Urbana campus.

Also at Tuesday's legislative hearing, Nicole Wills with the Illinois State Board of Education spoke before lawmakers. She was part of a panel, which spoke on the relationship between guns in businesses – and schools.

"We have a concern that introducing firearms into the school environment would ultimately make schools less safe," Wills said.

Some of the schools groups did make brief speeches, saying they want a seat at the table during negotiations. 

"I think it’s fair to say there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes conversations with a lot of the interested parties," State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) said.

NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde also spoke at the hearing. He said concealed carry should apply throughout the state - from Chicago to rural parts - and should also be allowed on public transit.

"It’s either a right, or it’s not," Vandermyde said. "It’s not a right that some bureaucrat or some elected official arbitrarily gets to go eenie meenie miney mo and dispense it out."

"We cannot ban violent criminals. We cannot ban mental illness," said Valinda Rowe of the pro-gun-rights group IllinoisCarry. "We can't keep drawing imaginary circles around our communities, around our schools, declaring that they are gun-free zones, and then pretending that the violent criminals and mentally deranged won't cross that line and harm our children."

Illinois State Police Lt. Darrin Clark said the fee for issuing a future concealed carry permit must cover the cost of processing. FOID cards cost $12 to produce, Clark said, while the 10-year fee for a card is only $10.

Another legislative hearing on guns is scheduled for Friday in Chicago, where public officials who have already made their positions known on gun legislation are expected to testify.

In a WILL-TV story about gun rights, Mary Kay Mace talks about the 2008 tragedy involving her daughter at Northern Illinois University.