State Rep. Brandon Phelps said on June 9 he will be carrying a concealed firearm, though he is not sure what type he will be carrying.
He introduced the Family and Personal Protection Act Jan. 19 and while the House of Representatives debates amendments to the bill, indications are something historic regarding Illinois gun ownership will happen this spring.
“What the final draft is going to be I have no idea until we debate the amendments,” Phelps said in a telephone interview March 14.
Speaker of the House Michael Madigan for the past few weeks has been calling for debates on many amendments to the concealed carry law. Those amendments involve restrictions such as where people can or cannot carry their concealed firearms, banning assault weapons and how mental health issues may affect a person’s right to carry.
The amendment debating has caused frustration for some members of the house.
“The Republicans the last couple weeks have decided not to vote on a lot of amendments. They say they are not going to play this game because there are a lot of amendments, but not a final bill,” Phelps said.
Phelps characterized the amendment debating as Madigan trying “to gauge the temperature” of the house members before calling for a vote on the final bill.
“At the end of the day we will see one bill with a lot of extra issues in it,” Phelps said.
The June 9 date is important because if there is no legislative action by that date, Illinois gun owners will automatically be able to carry concealed firearms.
“If we don’t pass it, June 9 is the deadline when constitutional carry sets in, so if you have a valid FOID (Firearm Owners Identification Card) in Illinois, if there is not a law when June 9 rolls around, you’re going to be able to carry through constitutional carry,” Phelps said.
While Phelps has sought concealed carry legislation for years with resistance from Chicago lawmakers, a horrific incident that took place in Anna brought the issue to the courtroom.
Mary Shepard and another woman were attacked and beaten while at a church in Anna in September of 2009.
“She was at church with her friend when a guy came in that afternoon and beat her and her friend up and left her for dead,” Phelps said.
Shepard had concealed carry permits for two other states, but under Illinois law she was not permitted to have a concealed gun in her possession.
“She had concealed carry permits for two other states, but in her own state she couldn’t even protect herself,” Phelps said.
Shepard and her friend survived the attack and Shepard filed suit — Shepard v. State of Illinois — against the state maintaining the ban on concealed firearms was unconstitutional.
The Court of Appeals in the 7th Circuit of three judges voted 2-1 in Shepard’s favor and gave the state 180 days to present a bill regulating concealed carry.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the judges to consider ruling again individually instead of as a panel, but the court refused, Phelps said.
Madigan can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Phelps said that move involves risk. New York and some other states’ concealed carry laws use the phrase “may issue (a concealed carry permit to an individual)” meaning the government has an option to issue or not issue the permit even if that person meets all the concealed carry law requirements. Phelps’ law uses the language “shall issue,” meaning the individual who meets the requirements shall receive the permit without an option for the state to refuse it. Phelps said an appeal by Lisa Madigan to the Supreme Court could result in a ruling that any state’s law using the phrase “may issue” is unconstitutional and create less restrictive concealed carry laws nationwide.
Governor Pat Quinn has announced his support for the appeal to the Supreme Court.
“We are fighting for ‘shall issue,’” Phelps said.
“If you meet the requirements and pass the background check, you ‘shall be issued’ as allowed by the second amendment.”
Phelps said there are some lawmakers opposed to voting on a concealed carry law until they see a bill passed at the federal level regarding gun regulation. Such a bill could ban military-style assault weapons and ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets.
Phelps said the Chicago lawmakers who don’t want the law to pass also know to wait until constitutional carry becomes effective June 9 is to risk automatic passage of concealed carry with little regulation.
“The clock is ticking and June 9 it could go back to the court and we could get a better ruling through the court than through the passage of concealed carry,” Phelps said.
“Chicago and Cook County do not want to pass a concealed carry law, but they don’t want it to go back to the court.
“I’ll tell you, June 9, I’m going to carry. I personally am going to carry.”
He just doesn’t know at this point exactly what it is he will be carrying.