Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Two Illinois House Bills on Gun Control Miss the Target Vote

Gun control may be the most divisive issue currently in our state’s politics.  Reflecting the divergent views, two different conceal and carry (C&C) proposals were voted down last week by the House.  The first proposal, Amendment to HB 831 (HB 831), sought tighter restrictions on applicants who could obtain a C&C license and proposed wide discretion to the police authority in deciding whether to issue the license.  The second proposal, HB 997, proposed less restrictive licensing requirements and more bright-line criteria that an applicant would either meet or not, along with fewer restrictions on where a C&C licensee would be allowed to carry a firearm.  HB 831 failed by a severe margin in the House (31 ayes, 76 nays), while HB 997 was only seven votes short of passing (64 ayes, 45 nays).

Despite the differences in the proposed legislation, there is good reason to believe that the General Assembly will pass a bill through the House and Senate in the very near future.  A C&C law must be enacted by June 9, or there will be no enforceable Illinois law concerning carrying a firearm in public.

The impetus behind the recent efforts to legislate C&C is the federal appellate court’s ruling in Moore v. Madigan.  The Moore decision rejected Illinois’ general prohibition of carrying handguns in public, but afforded the General Assembly 180 days to implement a suitable C&C law.

The major differences in the proposed legislation concern the manner in which licenses are issued.  HB 831 sought to have local authorities (county sheriffs primarily) initially process and approve the application before submitting it to the State Police to verify applicant eligibility.  Local authorities under HB 831 were to have broad discretion to reject or approve applications on criteria such as the applicant having “a particularized need for the license” and finding that the applicant is “a responsible person.”

HB 997 sought a one-step application process directly with the State Police and set out objective criteria that an applicant would either meet or not.  A local police authority could object to an application if its objection “demonstrates the applicant is a danger to himself or herself or others.” An administrative review could take place if the State Police denied the application based on the objection.

Another difference concerns the locations where a licensee could carry a handgun.  For example, HB 831 would have required a commercial or residential tenant to obtain permission of the owner/landlord to carry a firearm, while HB 997 would have required that commercial and residential lessees be allowed to possess and carry firearms on the leased premises.  Another example of the differences is that HB 831 sought to prohibit the use of the license during public events (such as street fairs, parades, farmer’s markets, public concerts), whereas HB 997 contains no such restriction.  As a whole, HB 831 is more restrictive of using the license than HB 997.

State Senators are reportedly drafting a bill that would bifurcate C&C between licenses for use in Cook County and licenses for use in other areas of the state.  Such legislation would presumably try to preserve aspects of HB 831 specific to Cook County in an attempt to garner sufficient votes from the Chicago constituency that generally desires stricter licensing requirements.

In whatever form C&C legislation is ultimately passed by the General Assembly, local governments and especially police departments should be on standby to understand the changes in the law because it would immediately impact current law enforcement procedures and local ordinances pertaining to the possession and display of weapons in public.


David W. McArdle

Author: David W. McArdle