By Melissa Leu Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — Rick Eccles says he doesn’t see Illinois lawmakers changing their mind about concealed carry anytime soon.
But as president of the Piasa Rifle and Pistol Club in Alton, he said he considers approval of a concealed-carry law in Illinois just a matter of time.
“Eventually we'll have enough people in Illinois who want guns — hunters, shooters and such. Then you'll see more people get involved,” Eccles said.
But for now, Eccles will have to wait.
The Illinois House on Thursday narrowly voted down a measure that would allow people to carry concealed weapons in public places. The vote was 65-52-1, but failed because it needed a supermajority to pass.
Supermajorities are necessary for measures that would limit the regulatory powers of local municipalities.
State Rep. Brandon Phelps, R-Harrisburg, who sponsored House Bill 148, said he doesn’t plan on giving up.
“There are guns on the streets right now, but it’s the guns that the bad guys have. And law-abiding gun owners, law-abiding citizens have no protection, and we are at the criminal’s mercy,” Phelps said.
If approved, the plan would have allowed residents to carry guns after passing a background check and completing eight hours of training. Licensed gun holders would be prohibited from bringing guns to certain public places, such as government buildings, airports and schools.
Critics of the concealed-carry plan often cite fears of increased violence and added stress to an already overloaded Firearm Owner Identification card system. The Illinois State Police estimates about 325,000 more people would sign up for concealed carry permits if the law were changed.
“I can tell you first hand that having more guns on our street is no answer. We lost five Chicago police officers to gun violence,” said Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, who’s served as a Chicago police officer. “More opportunities for gun use by these people who shouldn’t have them is no answer. Fewer guns means less violence, less injury and less death.”
Dan Lovin, a chaplain with the Mount Vernon Police Department, disagreed. Although he wouldn’t personally carry a gun, he said he believed the plan protected a “constitutional right.”
“Bad guys already have guns, why can't we carry them?” Lovin asked. "We're one of only two states that can’t. There must be some way for it to work."
Illinois and Wisconsin do not allow some form of concealed carry.
Jim Raap, an Elgin police officer of seven years, said he believes that crime rates would decrease if concealed carry were allowed.
“As a police officer, you need to be very aware of your surroundings. … You should be thinking everyone around you is armed,” Raap said.
But times aren’t like the “Wild West” anymore, said Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago.
Despite failing in the House, the measure could be called back for another vote because of a technical procedure, something that Eccles welcomes.
"People don't understand that nothing is going to change (if concealed carry is approved)," Eccles said. "I live next to Missouri and things over there have not changed."