SPRINGFIELD | The two Chicago Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly have laid out their strategies for dealing with a court order requiring the state to allow citizens to carry concealed weapons.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, on Thursday announced the schedule for two public hearings to get public input on bringing Illinois’ firearms laws in line with 49 other states.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, meanwhile, named state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, as his point person on gun control legislation.
The action by the leaders on revamping the state’s gun laws comes after a federal appeals court ruled Illinois must join the rest of the nation in allowing citizens to carry loaded weapons in public. The decision came just days before 20 children and six school employees were killed by a gunman at a Connecticut elementary school.
The court decision is being appealed, but a 180-day requirement for action set by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals continues to wind down.
On the House side, Madigan set public hearings for Feb. 19 in Springfield and Feb. 22 in Chicago.
“In light of events in recent months in Illinois and in other parts of the country, it’s appropriate and necessary that we give a full vetting to proposed state legislation on this matter,” Madigan said. “These hearings will provide an opportunity for gun safety advocates, gun rights supporters and members of the law enforcement community to offer their views and argue their cases to legislators and the people of Illinois.”
In the Senate, Cullerton has decided that all firearms-related legislation will be heard in the Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Raoul. In the past, some gun legislation was funneled to the Senate Public Health Committee.
State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, who has been pushing to give Illinoisans the right to carry concealed weapons, said he isn’t opposed to the meetings and hearings, but said the court ruling means Illinois must act.
“The talk is coming to an end. We’ve got 180 days. We’re going to have a concealed carry bill,” Forby said. “Chicago people know they’ve got to have a gun bill.”
Todd Vandermyde, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said the court order has Chicago-area lawmakers opposed to concealed carry scrambling.
“I think some people are finally coming to the realization the seriousness of the situation,” Vandermyde said.