Cook County sheriff introduces concealed carry law - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Cook County sheriff introduces concealed carry law

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CHICAGO (Associated Press) -

Cook County commissioners were put on the spot Wednesday to weigh in on the issue of who can carry concealed weapons when they were asked to consider Sheriff Tom Dart's proposal to come up with their own law in case state lawmakers don't pass one.

The federal court has ordered lawmakers to pass legislation to allow public possession of weapons by June 9. With the deadline approaching, even county commissioners who don't agree with potential restrictions in Dart's bill say passing something that would be moot if a state law is passed in time makes perfect sense.

"I just think Dart's being prepared in the event that state government screws this up," said Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman, a Republican who questions some of the provisions of the bill by Dart, a Democrat.

The ordinance introduced Wednesday includes restrictions that are guaranteed to upset gun rights advocates, who along with gun control advocates have put Chicago at the center of the national debate over guns. For example, under the ordinance, applicants can only be granted concealed carry licenses if the sheriff himself is satisfied there is a "demonstrated need for protection."

Also, the ordinance calls for guns to be prohibited in many areas, including schools, government buildings, amusement parks, libraries, museums and trains -- the exact kind of restrictions that gun rights advocates say make the laws little more than thinly disguised gun bans.

Dart worries that by letting the June 9 deadline come and go, Illinois would turn from the last remaining state to ban concealed weapons into a state that has among the fewest regulations regarding concealed weapons.

Gun rights advocates said as much in December, when they warned that failure to come up with a concealed gun law by June 9 would mean Illinois would become a "constitutional carry" state, where the only thing residents would need to carry a concealed weapon is a valid Illinois Firearm Owners Identification card.

"It would become the Wild West," said Dart, whose county is the largest in the state and includes Chicago. "If nothing is passed then this will be a state where anyone with a FOID card can carry ... a weapon anywhere you want, in churches, on buses, in sports stadiums. I don't know anybody who can say that's safe."

Dart said the provisions in the ordinance are negotiable, but that the county board needs to start negotiating soon to make sure there's an ordinance to fill the void if state lawmakers don't act.

At the same time, if the county passes an ordinance that gun rights advocates consider overly restrictive, the advocates promise a lengthy and expensive legal battle like the one Chicago waged over its handgun ban until it was ultimately invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.

"(With) every lawsuit we brought in federal court against the state or the city, we have prevailed and they paid our legal fees," National Rifle Association lobbyist Todd Vandermyde said. "If Cook County wants to go down this road, they can."

Some commissioners don't.

"The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, in my mind, trying to uphold what was pretty clearly an untenable position based on previous court rulings," Commissioner John Fritchey said. "I don't want to see us throw good money after bad."

Another commissioner, Peter Silvestri, said he can already envision the lawsuits challenging the board's right to pass such an ordinance.

"Do we even have the authority to pass something that's contingent on another level of government not fulfilling its duty?" he asked, adding that he's written the state attorney general's office looking for an answer to that question.

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