PI Original Ashlee Rezin Friday February 22nd, 2013, 8:14pm

Lawmakers, CPD, NRA & Community Voice Views On Concealed Carry In Illinois At Hearing

The Illinois House Judiciary Committee held its second public hearing on gun control today in downtown Chicago. As the June deadline to draft a concealed carry law looms, legislators heard testimony from Chicago’s elected officials and advocates on both sides of the argument. 

The Illinois House Judiciary Committee held its second public hearing on gun control today in downtown Chicago. As the June deadline to draft a concealed carry law looms, legislators heard testimony from Chicago’s elected officials and advocates on both sides of the argument.

“I have no concern with legal guns, I have a great concern with illegal guns,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in a testimony that, including a question and answer portion with legislators, lasted more than 30 minutes.

“We’re drinking from a fire hose,” he said in response to the number of illegal weapons in Chicago. “We can’t possibly keep up with gun trafficking, based on the resources that are there.”

Local officials, including McCarthy, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) and Forrest Claypool, president of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), gave testimony and, often recommendations, for the impending concealed carry law.

Members of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee also heard from Todd Vandermyde, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association (NRA), Ronald Holt, founder of Purpose Over Pain, who lost his son to gun violence in 2007, and other activists from organizations such as Moms Demand Action and Second Amendment Sisters.

Members of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee include Chairperson State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), Vice-Chairperson State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) and State Reps. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), John Bradley (D-Marion), Scott Drury (D-Highwood), Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville), Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon), Jim Sacia (R- Pecatonica), Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove), Elgie Sims (D-Chicago), Andre Thapedi (D-Chicago), Jil Tracy (R-Quincy), Arthur Turner (D-Chicago), Emanuel Welch (D-Westchester) and Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside).

Much of the debate from today’s approximately four-hour hearing, the second one this week, was focused on whether passengers should be allowed to bring guns on mass transit, including buses and trains.

Legislators held a similar meeting in Springfield on Tuesday, during which NRA Spokesman Vandermyde ruffled feathers by saying, “I don’t believe people who need public transportation to get around should be prohibited from exercising their constitutional right.”

McCarthy, who spoke at length today about the need for education and the dangers of poorly-trained civilians having the right to carry firearms, said he was opposed to permitting concealed carry on mass transit.

“In confined spaces, firearms present a greater danger; especially confined spaces packed with people,” he said.

Ald. Osterman also spoke in opposition of permitting concealed carry on mass transit, saying “I think that where people allowed to carry a concealed weapon is a critical issue.”

“I’ve heard recently people advocating carrying them on the ‘L’,” he said. “I would assume that none of the people advocating that have ever ridden on an ‘L’ [train].”

Cook County President Preckwinkle, Ald. Cochran and Claypool, president of the CTA, also said they oppose the allowance of concealed carry on public transportation.

“Allowing people to carry concealed weapons in a confined space, like a bus or a train, especially on an elevated track or in a subway, would create an unsafe environment,” said Claypool. “It would be a recipe for disaster.”

But Vandermyde renewed the NRA’s position that the Second Amendment right to bare arms should include mass transit.

“We think that just because you take public transit, whether because of your economic status or the way your commute runs, you should not be deprived of your right to self defense,” he said, noting that he rode the train to today’s public hearing.

McCarthy also spoke extensively about stiffer penalties for violators of gun laws and the need for a requirement to report loss, theft or transfer of a firearm.

“More guns, even legal guns, could end up changing hands during robberies and end up becoming illegal guns on the streets of our city,” he said, adding that Chicago outpaces every other major American city in the seizure of firearms.

“When I advocate for lost, theft or transfer to be required to be reported, my concern is with slowing down the straw purchasers, because I want them to be accountable,” he said. “When we recover a gun off our streets, we return the gun to its rightful owner and they say, ‘Thank you, that gun was lost two years ago, but I didn’t have to report it, so I didn’t.’”

During Preckwinkle’s testimony, she urged extensive background checks, increased fees for Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) cards and said guns shouldn't be allowed in schools, nursing homes, churches, and government-owned and operated buildings.

When asked by State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) if Cook County should be “carved out” from the rest of the state and treated differently than the other 101 counties, Preckwinkle said there are “unique and special characteristics in Cook County" and “given the special circumstances in Cook County, it might be something we would want to consider.”

Ald. Cochran said that he is concerned with ensuring gun owners were properly educated about the use of force and that training of gun legalities should equal that of law enforcement.

“We may find ourselves in a situation where law abiding citizens are being prosecuted for the illegal use of guns without them knowing what the use of force really means and when it’s authorized,” he said.

He also advocated for the establishment of GPS tracking devices in guns, saying “we can track a cell phone, we should be able to track guns.”

Following a December ruling by the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that the Illinois’ concealed carry ban is unconstitutional; Illinois lawmakers have until June 9 to draft a new law. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's petition to the federal appellate court for an en banc, or hearing from all of the judges of the court, was denied.

Madigan's next step, if she so chooses, is to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We have to think with civility,” said Ronald Holt, founder of Purpose Over Pain, who held up a picture of his slain son, Blair, along with three other parents of children killed by gun violence who also held up photos of their lost sons and daughters.

Blair Holt was shot and killed by a semi-automatic weapon on a CTA bus in 2007. “I was asked earlier if someone on Blair’s bus, a law abiding citizen, would’ve had a firearm, could they have defended the innocent? No, there would have been more blood-letting on that bus, more people would’ve been shot and more people would’ve been killed.”

“There should be restrictions on concealed carry,” said Holt. “Let’s use conventional wisdom.”

The last person to testify before the House Judiciary Committee was Vandermyde, spokesman for the NRA.

“This is a fundamental, constitutionally protected, civil right,” he said. “The right to self defense, the right to own a firearm — it’s not a privilege to be kneaded out by bureaucratic people on eenie, meenie, miney, mo.”

“The opponents of this legislation have consistently tried to is say, ‘Let’s pass a law that looks like a carry law, but is now a regulatory ban, that says you can’t carry here, here or there.’ By the time you’re done drawing all those circles, you’ll be lucky to walk down the sidewalk,” he said.

Vandermyde equated the civil liberties debate of gay marriage to the civil liberties of the right to bear arms, saying if the equal marriage legislation can be “rocketed” through the General Assembly, so should a concealed carry bill.

“You’re a reasonable person, right?” asked State Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood). “I assume the NRA’s position is that they don’t want innocent people to die, right? If there are steps that can be taken, that we as a panel can take, to protect innocent lives, I assume you would agree that those steps should be taken.”

After bantering back and forth with Drury over Illinois’ problem with gun control, Vandermyde ultimately admitted that he agrees gun regulations are necessary, especially against criminals using firearms. But the NRA would not permit a delay in the implementation of a concealed carry law, he said.

“We are going to implement a law by June 9,” he said near the end of the meeting. “I’m not the king of Illinois, I’m a lobbyist, I can only ask to help write laws that make the state better.”

Comments

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The restrictions advocated by these infamous scofflaws are ridiculous.

McCarthy's opinion is on record that the Second Amendment is not, despite being NUMBER TWO in the Bill of Rights, equal to the others guaranteed therein. He follows that nonsense with something even more astonishing - that the Constitution should be interpreted and applied based upon political whims rather than longstanding common law principles, precedents and traditional American jurisprudence. The Constitution exists precisely to thwart such an exigency. Its purpose is to restrict the government, not the people. These statements are either astonishing representations of dismal civic ignorance, or reprehensible demonstrations of elitist arrogance.

And that mindset is embedded in Cook County politicians.

In all the states that have permissive "shall issue" concealed carry laws (the vast majority; 41 of them), none of the posited prognostications of escalated danger to the public has happened.

None. Your state has run out of excuses.

Cook County has been living in an oligarchic bubble that projects its power statewide. Illinois must reckon with the wrong-headedness of its policies, and make an honest effort to correct the chronic, egregiously unconstitutional treatment of its citizens' rights.

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