By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD — Prosecutors in Chicago are telling state lawmakers they can essentially ignore a federal court ruling and not legalize concealed carry in Illinois.
The Illinois House on Tuesday held the first of two statewide hearings on how to legally allow people to carry a gun in the state. Illinois is the only state in the nation that bars anyone from carrying a pistol outside their home. In December, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said Illinois must change that.
But Paul Castiglione, policy director for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, told lawmakers there is no need for a new law.
“Only the Illinois Supreme Court can declare a statue from (the legislature) unconstitutional,” Castiglione told lawmakers Tuesday. “I heard (someone) say that after 180 days our UUW (unlawful use of weapon) statute is unconstitutional. Not so.”
But Cook County State’s Attorney ‘s office seems to be the only one willing to gamble that Illinois is not bound by the federal court.
Chicago Democrat Mike Zalewski said unless and until Castiglione has a different court order or legal opinion, he should keep his mouth shut.
“We’re charged with passing a constitutional (law) down here in the next 60 to 90 days,” Zalewski said. “And if there is a dissenting belief that there is no ticking clock, it’s going to cause all of us who wish to come to a constitutional, fair, and balanced solution (to have) a more difficult slog ahead.”
Castiglione said he has not spoken with the Illinois Attorney General or any of the state’s other 101 prosecutors.
Todd Vandermyde, lobbyist for the Illinois State Rifle Association, said a number of courts have been ruled and the impact is clear.
“We went to court and won,” Vandermyde told lawmakers as he explained what a new law should look like.
When the clock runs out, Vandermyde and a number of lawmakers say anyone in Illinois who has a valid firearms owner identification card will be able to carry any weapon they want almost anywhere they want.
State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, said gun control supporters need to realize that.
“It’s very frustrating to me, as a Representative, that we have the city of Chicago with three million people that won’t negotiate with the General Assembly,” Reboletti said. “We see a lot of that here, where it’s all or nothing. Pretty soon it’s going to be nothing.”
The Rifle Assocoiation’s Vandermyde said leaders in Chicago have decided to make guns into the “boogeyman” and blame guns for problems with jobs, schools and families that the city cannot solve.
Chicago Democrat Andre Thapedi said there are a lot of still unanswered questions about how a statewide concealed carry law would work in Chicago.
“I want to ensure that law-abiding citizens have their rights protected,” Thapedi added. “At the same token, the spirit of what the city of Chicago is trying to do, as far as keeping safeguards and reasonable restrictions on gun use are in play.”
Chicago has been one of the most violent cities in America in recent months. President Obama was just in the city last week to speak about gun violence, but the speech did not stop a handful of weekend shootings.
Illinois lawmakers will host their second hearing on gun legislation next week in Chicago. Lawmakers have until the last day of the spring session on May 31 or until the federal court deadline June 9th to pass some sort of concealed carry law.
You can contact Benjamin Yount at [email protected].