SPRINGFIELD — The head of an influential bloc of black lawmakers says he may be able to support a law that allows Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons in every county except the state’s most populated one.
State Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, who chairs the House Legislative Black Caucus, said Cook County is too congested to allow people to carry firearms on the streets and should be exempted from any statewide concealed gun law.
“I think there could be some room for compromise,” Davis said.
As head of the black caucus, Davis could play a key role in crafting a concealed weapons law in the wake of a federal court ruling Tuesday that struck down as unconstitutional the state law that prohibits most citizens from carrying a concealed handgun in public.
In a 2-1 opinion, the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the General Assembly 180 days to revise its law, saying the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized a right to bear arms for self-defense.
Last year, members of the black caucus were instrumental in helping defeat an attempt by downstate lawmakers to put a concealed weapons law on the books.
Davis said the restrictions in that proposal — which included background checks, mandatory training and limits on where guns would be allowed — didn’t go far enough.
His proposal to exempt Cook County from a new law is just one potential restriction being considered as gun control groups gird for a battle with gun rights organizations such as the National Rifle Association.
Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said Illinois lawmakers should approve the most restrictive concealed carry law in the nation.
“We’re not talking about teddy bears here. We’re talking about guns. Guns kill people,” Daley said.
As Daley sees it, once a restrictive law is in place, the NRA and other gun rights groups could then challenge the law in the courts to find out what will be permitted and what will be tossed out.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, scoffed at the idea of exempting Cook County.
“Will Davis can go fly a kite,” Pearson said. “We’ve have the court on our side. We’re not exempting Cook County. They are the people who actually need this law the most.”
Meanwhile, in his first public comments about the appeals court decision, Gov. Pat Quinn said he thinks there should be some restrictions on who can get a permit and where concealed weapons can be carried. Those could include barring people with domestic violence records or mental health problems, he said.
“We have to have reasonable limitations so people have clear situations where they should not be carrying a gun,” Quinn said.