Legislators representing Crawford County say Gov. Pat Quinn's amendatory veto of the concealed-carry bill goes too far, and are confident they can override it.
One week before a federal court deadline, Quinn on Tuesday demanded that lawmakers approve tougher restrictions as part of a gun possession bill that would make his state the last in the country to allow the concealed carry of firearms.
Quinn cited Chicago's gun violence in declaring that a compromise gun bill that cleared the House and Senate by wide margins was too hurried and influenced by the National Rifle Association. But fellow Democrats who lead the Legislature signaled they would try to override his changes next week.
Using an amendatory veto, Quinn sent the measure back to legislators with significant changes - including a one-gun limit on the number of firearms a person can carry and a ban on weapons in establishments that serve alcohol. Towns also would have the right to enact their own assault weapons bans, beyond just a 10-day window that was part of the bill approved by the Legislature in May.
"There are serious flaws in this bill that jeopardize the public safety of the people of Illinois," said Quinn, surrounded by nearly 100 anti-violence advocates, including relatives of gunfire victims.
With Illinois facing a July 9 deadline to join the rest of the nation in allowing law abiding, trained gun owners to carry a concealed firearm, State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) said legislators should immediately override the amendatory veto.
"Lawmakers from both parties worked together in good faith to negotiate a compromise on concealed-carry legislation that would be palatable to legislators representing different constituencies and interests throughout Illinois. The governor was not part of that process, and is now coming in at the eleventh hour with drastic changes to the bill," Righter said.
He added that while some of Quinn's ideas may have merit, the amendatory veto contains other provisions that would be burdensome, if not impossible, for gun owners to abide by.
The amendatory veto would also require employers to post a notice signifying concealed weapons are allowed on the premises, a change from the original bill which allowed business owners to post a sign opting out of concealed carry.
"Illinois is home to almost 137,000 retailers alone, and there are thousands more non-retail businesses that would be impacted by this mandate," Righter said. "A uniform standard for concealed carry should be implemented in order to reduce the burden on the state's job creators and those citizens who choose to exercise their constitutionally-protected Second Amendment rights."
Righter's counterpart in the House of Representatives agreed.
"These restrictions are unacceptable," said State Rep. Brad Halbrook.
Halbrook has said all along that he would have preferred the original concealed-carry bill, House Bill 997. But when it did not get enough votes to pass, he decided that House Bill 183 was an acceptable compromise, and he joined with 88 other House members from both parties and from all regions of the state in supporting it.
"I am sorry to say that Gov. Quinn's changes move too far," Halbrook said. "They take a compromise bill that respected constitutional rights and improved public safety, and instead make it into an overly restrictive and confusing law which runs the risk of making criminals out of law-abiding people who had no intent to commit a crime."
Lawmakers who have spent months debating and negotiating the gun bill reacted angrily, accusing Quinn of posturing ahead of a re-election campaign next year in which he likely faces serious challenges even from within his own party.
Sponsors of the bill noted the concealed-carry bill passed with well more than the three-fifths majorities needed in both the House and Senate to turn back the governor's demands.
"I think he's playing politics. I'm just saying it like it is," said Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democratic lawmaker and gun rights advocate from a far southern Illinois district who sponsored the legislation.
Within hours of Quinn's announcement, Illinois' legislative leaders called a session for next Tuesday to deal with the changes. That day is also the deadline the 7th U.S. Circuit Appeals Court gave Illinois to pass a law as part of a December ruling that the state's concealed carry ban was unconstitutional. All 49 other states have laws allowing public, concealed carry of firearms.
It's unclear what happens if the deadline passes without a concealed carry law. Some gun-rights advocates argue residents would be able to carry any type of weapon anywhere, but others believe local communities could enact their own ordinances.
Senate President John Cullerton said there were issues worth discussing with his caucus, but that he would talk with House Speaker Michael Madigan about an override, spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said. Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown said lawmakers would be back in Springfield next week.
The governor's challenge was underscored this week when former White House chief of state Bill Daley, who's preparing a Democratic challenge to Quinn, received an endorsement from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a staunch gun control supporter.
n a video posted online late Monday, Bloomberg said Daley is "uniquely qualified to lead Illinois in these challenging times," and "will fight for common sense gun laws
Quinn, a Chicago resident, has been an insistent advocate for gun control. Last year, he stripped an ammunition sales bill and replaced it with a proposed statewide assault weapons ban, but lawmakers rejected his attempt.
Quinn dismissed the allegations of politics, saying his job right now is to be governor. He said the court's deadline compressed his time to review the bill.
"I don't believe in compromising public safety and I don't believe in negotiating public safety," Quinn said.
Vetoes are predominantly executive measures designed to stop legislation, but the amendatory veto allows a governor to try his hand at legislating by suggesting specific changes. The intended extent of those changes has been debated since the 1970 Illinois Constitution granted the power. Only about five other states allow governors amendatory veto power.
The original legislation allows qualified gun owners who pass background checks and undergo training to get carry permits for $150. Quinn rewrote it to limit gun owners to carrying one with an ammunition clip holding no more than 10 rounds. He also called for clarifying language on mental health and objected to language requiring a gun to be "mostly concealed," saying it would lead to a law allowing guns to be carried on the hip.
Todd Vandermyde, Illinois lobbyist for the NRA, said he doesn't foresee anything but an override.
"They debated it; they did all of it. Once again you have a governor who doesn't show any leadership skills or abilities," he said.