SPRINGFIELD | The latest bid to bring Illinois in line with gun laws in the rest of the nation fell short Thursday.
After an hourlong debate in the Illinois House, a measure backed by the National Rifle Association that would have allowed certain, qualified Illinoisans to carry loaded weapons in public fell seven votes short of passage.
The outcome was the newest twist in the ongoing debate over firearms since a federal appeals court decreed in December that the state must join 49 other states in legalizing the concealed carry of weapons.
State Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Harrisburg Democrat who is sponsoring the proposal, could bring the measure up for another vote later this spring.
"We're not going to give up. I still think we've got some time," Phelps told reporters.
The General Assembly faces an early June deadline to enact a concealed carry law. If lawmakers fail, Phelps says the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals could allow anyone with a state Firearm Owners Identification card to carry a gun anywhere in the state with no significant restrictions.
The plan he pushed Thursday would ban concealed weapons from government buildings, schools, child care facilities, airports, bars, stadiums and college campuses.
But, it wouldn’t allow individual cities to enact additional bans on firearms within their borders.
“We just believe there should be one uniform law,” Phelps said.
The measure needed 71 votes — 11 more than the usual 60 — because it would supersede the powers of Illinois cities to make their own laws. It received 64 “yes” votes and 45 “no” votes, split largely between downstate and Cook County lawmakers.
Under the legislation, concealed carry licenses would cost $100, with $70 going to the state police for operating the system and $30 going to upgrade the transfer of mental health records from counties to the state.
The measure calls for licenses to be processed within 90 days. They would be good for five years.
In order to receive a license, the applicant must have a valid FOID card and must prove they have taken 10 hours of training — including live firing. They must also certify they don’t have mental problems or abuse drugs or alcohol.
The plan calls for the Illinois State Police to issue licenses to qualified applicants. But, county sheriffs and municipal police chiefs could contest the applications.
Its failure in the House came after months of test votes aimed at determining what provisions might win approval. Chicago-area lawmakers argued for strict limits on who could get a permit, saying allowing more guns in the state’s largest city could make gun violence even worse there.
“This is not something I’d like to see on a CTA train in my district,” said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago.
“We think there should be restrictions on this,” said state Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood. “I just think this goes way too far, way too far. I hope that we’re prepared.”
But supporters said tougher gun laws have not reduced violence in Chicago.
“The gun laws in Chicago, the tight gun laws, do not work,” said state Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton.
“Chicago’s not an island. It’s only an island because it’s been a terrible, crime-ridden, gang-banging city for so long,” said state Rep. David Reis, R-Willow Hill.
Phelps said allowing people to carry guns in public could make violent areas of Chicago safer.
“The criminals know. They don’t fear retaliation,” Phelps said.