SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House turned back a push Wednesday by Chicago lawmakers to place limits on who could get the right to carry loaded guns in public.

In the latest test vote aimed at determining support for various gun control measures, a proposal that would have allowed county sheriffs to screen who could get concealed carry permits received just 31 "yes" votes to 76 "no" votes.

During more than an hour of sometimes contentious debate, opponents said sheriffs and the Illinois State Police should not get to weigh in on the permit process if a person qualifies for a permit.

State Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton, said police could unfairly deny applications or even play favorites and approve applications only to certain people.

"We don't need bureaucrats issuing these permits to their friends," Costello said.

Illinois lawmakers are operating under a federal appeals court decision issued in December to bring Illinois in line with 49 other states when it comes to allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. The court gave the General Assembly until early June to comply.

The decision has left Chicago-area lawmakers fighting to limit who can get permits and where guns can be taken because of concerns about gun violence in the state's largest city.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to not hear a case on a similar concealed carry law in New York had them hoping the concept could work in Illinois.

"More guns are not the answer to the city's gun violence problem," said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago.

"We have a serious gun violence problem," added state Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, however, said the proposal also left open the possibility that gun rights opponents could set unreasonably high fees for concealed carry permits.

"This could eventually be a thousand-dollar permit," Phelps said. "There's a lot of bad things going on with this bill."

State Rep. Mike Bost criticized Chicago lawmakers for pushing the bill to the full House without moving it through the regular legislative process.

"My gosh, people, don't you think the people of Illinois are tired of things like this?" Bost asked.

Later, when the Murphysboro Republican continued complaining about the measure, freshman state Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, called out Bost for yelling out of turn.

"We don't want somebody like that carrying a concealed weapon," Drury said.

Both men later apologized for their behavior.

The legislation is House Bill 831.

I'm the city editor at the Quad-City Times. You can reach me at dbowerman@qctimes.com or 563-383-2450.

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