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Miller: Concealed carry coming; tougher laws on gun sales, too?

Updated: March 26, 2013 9:41AM



Illinois House Democrats were told during a private caucus meeting in Springfield last week that, despite what Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez says, inaction on concealed carry would have serious consequences.

As you most assuredly know, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Chicago gave the General Assembly until June 8 to pass a law allowing some form of carrying a loaded gun in public. The full appeals court upheld that ruling by a 5-4 vote on Friday in an appeal by state Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

After the June 8 deadline, Illinois’ law against carrying a loaded gun will no longer apply. Illinois is the only state in the nation that totally bars concealed or open carry by citizens.

However, an aide to Alvarez told the House Judiciary Committee last week that the federal appeals court’s position means nothing to the state.

Paul Castiglione, a representative of Alvarez, dropped a bomb during a hearing by the committee that was called to discuss concealed carry when he declared that until the U.S. or Illinois Supreme courts rule, the appellate court decision is “not binding” on the state.

“Only the Illinois Supreme Court can declare a statute from this body to be unconstitutional,” Castiglione told the committee members.

He also took aim at warnings by the National Rifle Association that if no new concealed-carry law is put into place before the deadline, then gun owners would be free to carry assault rifles down Michigan Avenue.

Castiglione insisted that his office would continue to enforce the current law.

“Anyone who decides, for example, to walk down Michigan Avenue in Chicago carrying an AK-15 (sic) would be subject to arrest and prosecution,” he said.

But that’s not how the House Democrats’ legal staff sees the world.

At one point during that closed-door Democratic caucus meeting, Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) rose to ask whether the staff was saying that if the Legislature does not pass a concealed-carry law, he could legally carry a loaded semi-automatic rifle into the Statehouse after June 8.

“Yes,” he was told.

A stunned silence fell over the caucus meeting, said several House Democrats who attended.

“I think they finally get it now,” one pro-gun House Democrat said of his colleagues.

Some historically anti-gun members talked after the committee meeting about how they need to vote for a concealed-carry bill. So, Dunkin’s question and the answer given appear to have worked.

At least for now, a lot of House members are not willing to kick this particular can down the road.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Jesse White’s office says no way will it allow people to walk into the statehouse with a gun, regardless of what legislators do this spring. They believe state law backs them up, and White controls access to the Capitol, so he should know.

White long has been a gun control proponent. In fact, according to a recent poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, he’s in the mainstream of Illinois thought on this controversial topic.

The survey found that 72 percent of Illinoisans believe that “laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict,” while just 2.2 percent said they should be less strict, 21 percent said they should remain the same and 4 percent didn’t know.

The poll also found that 66 percent of downstate voters, 55 percent of conservatives and 55 percent of Republicans favor stricter gun control in Illinois, according to the institute’s poll.

One issue pushed by liberals is banning high-capacity ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds. The poll found that 63 percent agree that’s desirable while 33 percent oppose the idea.

Its results show that 52 percent of downstaters support the ammo limit (42 percent oppose) as well as 46 percent of conservatives (46 percent against) and 44 percent of Republicans (50 percent oppose). Also, 68 percent of women and 58 percent of men favor such a restriction, according to the poll.

And 49.7 percent of those polled said they believed the Second Amendment does not include the right to carry a concealed weapon in public, while 39.5 percent said it does and 11 percent didn’t know.

Among those downstate, 50 percent said the Second Amendment specifies such a right, while 36 percent said it doesn’t. By party, 68 percent of Democrats say there’s no such constitutional right, while 62 percent of Republicans believe there is, a very significant partisan divide.

Under the federal appeals court rulings, a concealed-carry law has to be passed by lawmakers, but as that poll clearly shows, it ain’t gonna be easy.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.



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