SPRINGFIELD — State lawmakers rejected Gov. Pat Quinn's changes to a landmark gun law Tuesday as they brought Illinois into compliance with a federal court order to legalize the concealed carry of loaded weapons in public.
The move by the General Assembly sets in place a system in which Illinois residents eventually will be able to tote guns in certain public places if they meet training requirements and pass background checks for criminal behavior and mental illness.
"We made history today," said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, who has been working for a decade to bring Illinois in line with the rest of the nation on handgun laws.
"I think concealed carry will work. I think crime will go down," Phelps said. "I think people should just give it a chance."
It was a stinging, but not unexpected, rebuke for Quinn, whose hometown has become a deadly shooting gallery this summer. He said without his changes, the new law is a "prescription for tragedy and disaster."
"I think it's very, very disappointing," Quinn said in a testy exchange with reporters. "Following a weekend of horrific violence in Chicago in which at least 70 people were shot and 12 killed, this was the wrong move for public safety in Illinois."
Concealed carry supporters were upbeat about the vote.
"I thought it was a good compromise," said state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington. "I'm glad to see the end result is near. It respects our Second Amendment rights and tries to have a balance of protecting people and our communities."
"I think this is long overdue," added state Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign. "It's frustrating that it's taken this long."
The dismissal of the governor's proposed alterations came in separate votes in the House and Senate on the same day the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had set as a deadline for Illinois to get a concealed carry law on the books.
Quinn had earlier predicted Tuesday would be a "showdown," but the day unfolded with little drama.
The 77-31 vote in the House came after no debate. In the Senate, the bill was overridden on a 41-17 vote.
"Although I wish we could have passed this measure in a more timely fashion, this was a compromise between all parties and fulfills the directive of the courts," said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline.
Under the new law, the Illinois State Police will establish a permit system within the next six months.
Residents with Firearms Owner Identification cards can apply for the $150 dollar, five-year permit. State Police would be required to issue that permit within 90 days.
That means it could be April 2014 before the first permits are issued.
Although some state's attorneys already have said they would not prosecute people for carrying guns in public places, the president of the Illinois State Rifle Association recommended that residents wait until the permitting system is established.
"I would be careful. You might be able to win in court if you were caught, but it would cost you a fortune," association president Richard Pearson said. "I don't think you should do that."
The new law also starts the clock ticking on a provision that gives local governments 10 days to ban assault weapons.
Tuesday's action was in response to Quinn's decision last week to alter the concealed carry blueprint approved after months of talks among legislators.
Phelps said the governor's action highlighted the longstanding tension over gun control between Chicago and the rest of the state.
"He's supposed to represent 102 counties, but he's only representing one — Cook County," Phelps said.
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Among the changes sought by Quinn was a ban on guns being taken into any business serving alcohol, not just bars as the original legislation called for.
The Chicago Democrat also wanted to give local communities the ability to create their own laws limiting assault weapons.
And the governor also called for barring concealed weapons from businesses, churches and other private property unless the owner displays a sign giving gun owners permission.
Other proposed changes would have given employers the ability to prohibit workers from carrying weapons while on the job and would limit gun owners to carrying just one gun and 10 bullets.
"Governor Quinn attempted to derail months of hard work, give and take and compromise with his amendatory veto," said state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington. "The General Assembly made a very wise move in quickly voting to override this veto and make right-to-carry the law of the land in Illinois."
While those changes weren't adopted, lawmakers did debate three slight changes to the law, including one that would eliminate the requirement that signs be posted on property where guns are banned.
State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, was among those voting against that provision, saying the signs are needed at places such as university campuses and large school districts.
"It could get very confusing very quickly," Rose said.
The changes won approval in the Senate but failed to advance in the House.
The concealed carry legislation is House Bill 183.
The follow-up legislation is House Bill 1453.