As state legislators wrapped up their session Thursday, a concealed carry bill allowing the people of Illinois to carry guns had not been called for a vote as some had hoped.
Earlier this month, State Rep. Pam Roth, R-Morris, joined numerous other representatives in not only sponsoring the concealed carry bill, but also starting an online petition in its favor.
The proposed bill allows people who acquire a permit the ability to carry a loaded firearm. To apply for a permit, a person must be 21 years of age and have a FOID card. Applicants cannot have been convicted of any felonies or some misdemeanors, and they would be required to take firearms training from a certified instructor, as well as an educational component.
"It's our second-amendment right, it was obviously important to our founding fathers . . . I personally probably wouldn't do it, but that is my decision. I feel as an American we should have the right to decide," Roth said.
"We are the only state in the union that doesn't have concealed carry."
Last week, Roth said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, who filed the House bill, thought he only needed a few more votes to get it passed and was hoping for it to be called before the end of the session. But it was never called and now will have to wait for the veto session.
In addition to being "our right," Roth said she believes just the idea that someone might be carrying a gun could deter a perpetrator from committing a crime against someone.
"Less than 1 percent of people with permits commit a crime," she said. "It's not like we're going to influence crime because of this. Criminals already have guns, it's not like they have FOID cards."
"It's not about defending yourself; it's a right and they feel very passionate about that right," Roth said.
The opposition comes from Chicago representatives, including Ann Williams, D-Chicago.
Williams' called the FOID card system faulty on its own, and asked how the state can add another process that will increase applicants by tens of thousands. An audit report came out in May on the FOID program indicating long delays in FOID card requests, and faulty reporting of people becoming ineligible to keep or obtain a card, such as a person becoming mentally ill.
She said state police are already under staffed and under funded and adding this legislation would just overwhelm an already over-burdened system.
"I don't feel more guns on the street are going to make us safer," Williams said.
After speaking with survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, Williams said none of them said they would feel safer or thought lives would have been saved that day if more people had guns on them at the time.
Williams admits her district, covering northside neighborhoods in Chicago, is obviously very different than Morris, but the idea of people having loaded weapons in any crowded area is not safer. If this legislation is to pass, there will be guns at public parks, fairs, grocery stores, playgrounds and other places guns don't belong.
"The idea of any number of people carrying a loaded weapon alongside a woman pushing a stroller doesn't seem like a good idea," she said.
Norm Gilmoure, owner of Gota-Hav-It Firearms & Reloading Components in Morris, feels by not allowing concealed carry, the legislators are actually endangering the public.
"By unarming your law-abiding citizens, you're just turning them into victims. Every law-abiding citizen should have the right to protect himself or his home," Gilmoure said.
The training required in the proposal is not enough, countered Williams, and the other states' concealed carry laws are not as broad as Illinois' bill proposal.
"This would allow almost anyone to apply for a permit," Williams said.
From a law-enforcement perspective, Morris Police Chief Brent Dite said the latest version of the bill is better than what state officials have tried to pass before.
"There are a lot of safeguards in place, which is what I like. I want safeguards in place for officers and the public," Dite said.
In addition to the training and educational requirements, the bill includes the ability to suspend and revoke the privileges.
If the bill passes at any time, its popularity locally is unpredictable, said the chief. Some will take comfort in having a way to protect themselves, but others may be scared off by the time-consuming application process.
"Whether they carry a firearm all the time is another question," Dite said.
Locally, he thinks many will take advantage of carrying when leaving town to somewhere they are unfamiliar with, but do not plan on taking it with them to the grocery store.
"For the general citizen, it's another way of protecting yourself, such as locking your doors or, when you get out of your car at night, checking your surroundings. It might just be a mental thing and they have no intention of ever using it. It's something they have to figure out in their own head," Dite said.
For his business and for his protection, Gilmoure is in favor of the bill, but finds it hard to believe it will ever pass.
"People are talking about it, but it ain't going to happen until (Speaker of the House Michael) Madigan and those in control are out of office. It would be nice if it happened, but don't hold your breath," Gilmoure said.
Even if it passes, he thinks it will be a year or two before people would actually get their firearms due to the back up with the FOID card system. In addition, there will be waiting lists to take the required training, and for instructors to get certified to give the training.
"They have lower crime rates in every other state that has concealed carry," he said.
Currently criminals have no fear of retaliation if they attack a regular citizen. If they had to fear the group of customers in the 7-11 they were thinking of robbing might have guns on them, they might think twice, Gilmoure said.
For more details on the concealed carry bill visit www.ilga.gov.