Cook County's sheriff is proposing a countywide concealed-carry ordinance, saying if state lawmakers don't pass a law by next month as a federal court has ordered, Illinois could turn into the "Wild West."
If lawmakers don't meet the June 9 deadline set earlier this year by a federal appeals court in its ruling that the state ban on public possession of firearms — the only one in all 50 states — was unconstitutional, Sheriff Tom Dart said, then anyone in the state with a firearm owners identification card could carry a concealed weapon anywhere.
"We would have the Wild West," he said. "There would be no regulation."
The ordinance proposed by Dart would give him the authority to approve or reject licenses to carry concealed guns in Cook County, and would require applicants to pay $300 for the license.
Chicago is located in Cook County, so Dart said his proposed ordinance would apply there, too.
Dart, who said his ordinance would only be implemented if no state law is passed, said his own experience as a state legislator has him worried that lawmakers will let the court's deadline come and go.
"I was in Springfield for 11 years," he said. "Deadlines sometimes don't mean anything (and) we have to be prepared in the event something does not get done.
In Chicago, officials are thinking along the same lines.
"If a statewide law is not passed, the city is preparing to implement a comprehensive concealed-carry ordinance to ensure that guns stay out of the hands of criminals," police department spokesman Adam Collins said.
Dart's proposal is part of a larger battle being waged in Springfield over who has the right to come up with a law — the state itself or local jurisdictions — and what any law should look like.
Gov. Pat Quinn and others argue that cities with so-called "home rule" be allowed to decide the gun possession issue within their boundaries, with the National Rifle Association and others countering that such local options would create a confusing "patchwork" of laws.
Also, Dart's proposal touches on a hotly contested issue in Springfield: Whether Illinois becomes a "shall issue" state, in which permits will be issued to anyone who obtains the necessary training and passes a background check. The alternative is a "may issue" state, giving law enforcement officials the power to decide who gets a permit.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is giving Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan until June 24 to decide whether or not she will appeal the appellate court's ruling. The 30-day extension, though, does not affect the June 9 deadline.