SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The last holdout on allowing the public possession of concealed guns, Illinois joined the rest of the nation Tuesday as lawmakers raced to beat a federal court deadline in adopting a carry law over Gov. Pat Quinn's objections.
Massive majorities in the House and Senate voted to override changes the Democratic governor made just a week ago in an amendatory veto.
Some lawmakers feared failure to pass something would mean virtually unregulated weapons in Chicago, which has endured severe gun violence in recent months — including more than 70 shootings, at least 12 of them fatal, during the Independence Day weekend.
"This is a historic, significant day for law-abiding gun owners," said Rep. Brandon Phelps, a southern Illinois Democrat who, in 10 years in the House, has continued work on concealed carry begun by his uncle, ex-Rep. David Phelps, who began serving in the mid-1980s. "They finally get to exercise their Second Amendment rights."
The Senate voted 41-17 in favor of the override after a House tally of 77-31, margins that met the three-fifths threshold needed to set aside the amendatory veto. Quinn had used his veto authority to suggest changes, including prohibiting guns in restaurants that serve alcohol and limiting gun-toting citizens to one firearm at a time.
Quinn had predicted a "showdown in Springfield" after a week of Chicago appearances to drum up support for the changes he made in the amendatory veto. The Chicago Democrat faces a tough re-election fight next year and has already drawn a primary challenge from former White House chief of state Bill Daley, who has criticized the governor's handling of the debate over guns and other issues.
Lawmakers had little appetite for fiddling any further with the legislation on the deadline day that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had set for ending what it said was an unconstitutional ban on carrying concealed weapons. Without action, the previous gun law would be invalidated and none would take its place.
"If we do not vote to override today, at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, July 10, there are no restrictions upon people who want to carry handguns in the public way," said Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat who negotiated the legislation with House sponsors.
Despite the setback for Quinn, he remained resolute when he spoke to reporters late in the day.
"It's very, very important that we protect the people," he said. "The legislation today does not do that. It has shortcomings that will lead to tragedies."
The law that took effect Tuesday permits anyone with a Firearm Owner's Identification card who has passed a background check and undergone gun-safety training of 16 hours — longest of any state — to obtain a concealed-carry permit for $150.
The Illinois State Police has six months to set up a system to start accepting applications. Spokeswoman Monique Bond said police expect 300,000 applications in the first year.
For years, powerful Chicago Democrats had tamped down agitation by gun owners to adopt concealed carry. So gun activists took the issue to court.