A compromise plan on concealed weapons heading for a House floor vote drew swift opposition Thursday from Gov. Pat Quinn, whose office called it a "massive overreach" because of the way it would curb local firearms regulations.
Chief among them is Chicago's ban on assault-style weapons, which would be stricken from the books, a deal-breaker for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The House Judiciary Committee endorsed Speaker Michael Madigan's plan 13-3 Thursday, one day after it surfaced as an alternative to a proposal backed by the National Rifle Association that failed by seven votes in the House last month.
The action comes just weeks before a June 9 deadline set by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered in December that Illinois drop its last-in-the-nation ban on the public possession of concealed weapons because it violates the Constitution's Second Amendment.
"This has been going on for years in other states, but of course it's kind of scary right now because it's new for Illinois," said Rep. Brandon Phelps, a southern Illinois Democrat and ardent gun-rights supporter who sponsored the proposal. "But you've got to start somewhere. We think this is a good starting point."
The Madigan legislation in many ways mimics Phelps' earlier plan that narrowly lost in April. But it would significantly broaden the list of places deemed off limits to guns, including mass-transit trains and buses, a must for violence-weary Chicagoans.
And it would overturn any local ordinance on the books, including Chicago's assault-weapons ban. Of the Prairie State's so-called "home-rule" municipalities — generally cities with populations above 25,000 that are free to set local policies without state interference — 109, or about half, have some sort of gun law, Phelps said.
"This legislation as written is a massive overreach that goes far beyond the conceal carry issue," said Brooke Anderson, spokeswoman for Quinn, a Chicago Democrat like Madigan. "The measure would repeal Chicago's assault weapons ban and put public safety at risk. We oppose this."
Chicago Democratic Senate President John Cullerton's spokeswoman, Rikeesha Phelon, echoed Quinn that the measure goes too far. A Senate Democratic proposal only pre-empted local control on concealed carry, leaving home-rule cities free to enact other firearms regulations, she said. That bill has not been called for a floor vote.
The NRA backed Phelps' earlier measure and has opposed legislative proposals which include other gun provisions unrelated to concealed carry. The gun-rights group's Illinois lobbyist, Todd Vandermyde, who rarely misses a chance to pipe up about gun bills, has not taken a position on the Madigan plan. Vandermyde has not responded to requests for comment.
Keeping the NRA on the sidelines could draw more votes, Phelps said. Despite its power, the NRA has not been able to break through the Chicago Democrats' gauntlet on guns.
But the clear focus Thursday was on the way the legislation would zap local control.
Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton praised provisions that would make public transit, schools, libraries and parks gun-free, but said the city contests pre-emption, which "would eliminate our ability to establish any additional restrictions in Chicago in the future."
Phelps said his measure answers the federal court's decree that the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to carry guns, regardless of locale.
"If you have all these different ordinances and all these different laws, we really believe that you're hurting the law-abiding gun owner because they don't know what you expect of them from one place to another," Phelps said in response to a committee hearing question from Rep. Ann Williams, a Chicago Democrat and one of the "no" votes.
Later, Williams said the plan would invalidate not only the assault-weapon ban, but such Chicago and Cook County ordinances as those taxing guns and requiring the reporting of lost and stolen weapons.
Gun-control advocate Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, agreed the legislation was the best available given the court order, but questioned local fealty to the Capitol on controlling guns on city streets.
"Every time we want to consider matters like this we're going to have to come down to Springfield and I don't know if that's a recipe for success going forward," Zalewski said.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said, "It was thought that you wanted to have one law for one state." He noted that weekly votes earlier this year in the House on separate gun issues showed tougher restrictions would be difficult to get through the House and that the legislation was an attempt to "fashion a commonsense approach."
Asked whether Madigan had spoken to Emanuel about pre-emption, Brown said there have been multiple discussions on the issue for several months. Chicago police officials did not respond to a request for comment Thursday and a spokesman for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said "the situation in Springfield is just too fluid" to comment.