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Chicago, Cook County concealed-carry measures in the works

Monday, May 06, 2013

A deadline is fast approaching for lawmakers to pass a concealed-carry measure in Illinois. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and others are making plans in case the deadline passes without action by the General Assembly.

If no concealed-carry law is passed by June 9, anyone with a state Firearm Identification card could carry a concealed gun. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy are coming up with plans of action if Springfield does not agree on a new law.

Dart says he is not optimistic state lawmakers will find common ground by June 9. And that means, barring court intervention, that the State of Illinois would revert to what is called constitutional carry. In other words, if you have a FOID card, you could buy a gun and carry it in full view -- not hidden under clothing, but open carry. The sheriff says that's too much a dose of the Wild West, and if the state doesn't act, the Cook County Board should.

"In the event they do not address this appropriately in Springfield, we will have something in play," said Dart. "We are not gonna be sitting here scrambling, saying, we are really now behind the 8-ball, we got to get something done."

That something is a backup plan. a proposed concealed-carry ordinance that the sheriff wants the Cook County Board to approve. It is modeled somewhat after New York City's concealed-carry law, which requires background checks but also compels an applicant to show a specific need to be armed.

"It's not some backdoor type of way to say, listen, let's just put something out there and then we're gonna deny everybody. That's not what we're trying to do here," Dart said. "We want to make sure, though, that it is something where it's directed at folks who clearly have issues of safety and security that needs to be addressed."

Law enforcement -- in this case, the sheriff's office =- would have another layer of review and could say no to someone asking to carry even if they pass the requisite background checks. That's called "may issue" and it's strongly opposed by the NRA, which says gun laws ought not be governed by zip code.

Chicago is also in the process of constructing its own concealed-carry ordinance if state lawmakers fail to reach agreement and its framework is similar to New York City's.

"You can't have a gun just because you want one," said McCarthy. "You would have a gun because you need one ,and you'd have to show the cause for that."

Both Chicago and Cook County proposals would prohibit concealed carry in government buildings, schools, entertainment venues, museums, libraries, mass transit, and bars, among other locations.

The sheriff's plan envisions a $300 application fee and the need to hire staff to process what he thinks could be tens of thousands of concealed carry applications.

"I have no delusions," said Dart. "No matter what framework anybody comes up with, it's gonna end up in the courts."

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan could appeal the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. She has not said whether she might do that.

A legislative stalemate could prompt an appeal.

Illinois is the only state without a concealed-carry law. The last state to approve one was Wisconsin in November 2011.

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