The sponsor of legislation to allow the concealed carry of firearms on Saturday ripped Gov. Pat Quinn's ongoing efforts to make the measure more restrictive, saying the Chicago Democrat is pandering to voters in Cook County and that his actions could lead to "mayhem" across Illinois.
Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democrat from Harrisburg, said lawmakers approved the legislation because they believed it was preferable to missing a court-ordered deadline to end Illinois' last-in-the-nation state ban on the public possession of firearms. That deadline is Tuesday — the same day Phelps expects the Legislature to override Quinn's amendatory veto.
But Phelps said Quinn still took a big risk by making changes to the hard-fought compromise legislation. Given the support for it in the General Assembly — the bill passed both chambers with well more than the three-fifths majority needed for the override — it's highly unlikely enough lawmakers would reverse course to approve Quinn's changes. But if the Legislature doesn't override them, the ban would be lifted and no law in place. That could lead to statewide confusion, Phelps said. It also could backfire on Quinn if the federal court then imposes a law that's less restrictive than the measure the Legislature sent to the governor.
"(Quinn) should be more concerned with what could happen if we don't override his veto," Phelps said. "There could be mayhem."
Quinn has said the changes were necessary because the bill is flawed and could jeopardize public safety.
The original legislation allows qualified gun owners who pass background checks and undergo 16 hours of training to get carry permits for $150. Those with permits could carry more than one gun with unlimited numbers of ammunition rounds. The measure prohibits the possession of guns in such places as schools, taverns and parks, but would allow a gun to be kept securely in a car. It also bans guns from restaurants where liquor sales make up 50 percent or more of gross sales.
Among Quinn's major alterations was banning weapons entirely from any establishment where alcohol is served and limiting people with a concealed carry permit to carrying one loaded, concealed gun with an ammunition clip holding no more than 10 rounds.
Quinn went to the center of one of Illinois' most popular entertainment districts Friday to try to sway lawmakers to support his changes to legislation allowing the concealed carry of firearms, saying letting people carry guns in some bars and restaurants is "a prescription for violence and disaster."
Standing outside Wrigley Field, with the many bars and restaurants of Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood as a backdrop, Quinn urged voters to call their legislators and tell them to support tougher restrictions he wrote into the bill, including a ban on guns in any place that serves alcohol. He said he wants places like Wrigleyville -- where hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to see the historic ball field, catch a Cubs game and down a few beers -- to remain safe and welcoming to tourists.
On Saturday, he joined residents in a South Side Chicago neighborhood that's seen more than its share of gun violence for a "community walk" to promote the tougher restrictions. The event followed a press conference Friday outside Wrigley Field in Chicago, an area that's one of the state's most popular entertainment districts, where he called guns and alcohol a "toxic mix." He's scheduled to make another stop on Chicago's South Side Sunday.
"The people of Illinois deserve common-sense gun policies that keep them safe," Quinn said Saturday. "No one needs to carry more than one gun and 10 rounds of ammunition for self-protection. As we continue to fight the gun violence that plagues many communities, the common-sense changes I made last week are crucial to public safety."
But Phelps said he has heard from many residents of Chicago — particularly people living in high-crime neighborhoods — who are "tired of living in fear" and want the legislation to pass so they can lawfully carry a gun. He also accused Quinn of using the issue to secure votes in heavily Democratic Chicago and Cook County in advance of a possible 2014 primary challenge. Quinn has denied the election is a factor in his decisions.
"The governor's acting like the mayor (of Chicago)," Phelps said. "He represents 102 counties. He can't just pick one out."