February 11, 2014

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ first concealed carry permits have yet to be granted, but legislators on all sides of the issue are already scrambling to amend the state’s carry rules.

Several downstate lawmakers have introduced plans that would make it easier to obtain a permit and expand the list of places where concealed guns can be carried, while others are pushing plans that would tighten restrictions.

State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, sponsors a proposal that would reduce the training requirements to obtain a permit.

The state’s current rules require that an applicant have at least 16 hours of training logged before they’re eligible for a permit.

Mitchell’s plan would reduce the threshold to eight hours, and eliminate a requirement that carriers undergo three hours of training when they renew their permit every five years.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, who was chief sponsor of the legislation that created the new concealed carry rules, said it’s too early for either side to be making changes.

“Everybody needs to take a deep breath,” he said. “This is monumental legislation. Let’s let it go into effect and see what it’s like before we try to change it.

“I really believe that neither pro-gun nor anti-gun bills are going to see any movement in the legislature right now.”

But Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, said there’s room for change in the law, even in its early stages.

Drury recently introduced legislation that would clarify language in the concealed carry rules, more explicitly forbidding weapons in establishments where patrons are gambling and consuming alcohol.

“The changes that I’m making are just technical changes to clarify the law where I think there’s vague language,” he said.

Another of Mitchell’s proposals would allow permit-holders from other states to carry in Illinois, as long as they’re at least 21 years old and live in a state with similar concealed carry requirements.

Legislation introduced by Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, would forbid concealed carry on any privately owned property where there isn’t a sign explicitly allowing it.

Drury added that there’s nothing wrong with legislators making more substantive changes to fledgling legislation, particularly when it’s so broad in its scope.

“I think that the nature of the one-size-fits-all aspect of the law isn’t the best thing, and changes can be made,” he said. “It was complex legislation that I think people need to go through and see if this is right for Illinois.”

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