Posted Online: Feb. 05, 2013, 5:33 pm

Smiddy, Verschoore cosponsor concealed carry bill in Springfield

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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

State Reps. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, and Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, have co-sponsored a bill that could see Illinois join every other state in the nation by allowing the concealed carry of firearms.

In December, the state's ban on concealed carry was declared unconstitutional by a three-member panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The justices ordered Illinois to pass a law allowing concealed carry within 180 days.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has asked the full 7th Circuit Court for review, but lawmakers are working on legislation in response to the court order.

Reps. Smiddy and Verschoore have co-sponsored House Bill 997 which would allow the concealed carry of handguns, with some restrictions.

"For too long, law-abiding citizens have been denied their basic Second Amendment rights because
of a vocal and influential minority," Rep. Smiddy said. "This is anopportunity for gun rights advocates to finally play a role in shaping firearms policy in Illinois."

The bill would let a permit holder carry a gun -- loaded or unloaded, openly or concealed -- on their person or in a vehicle. Firearms would not be allowed on college campuses or in schools, state and federal buildings, residential mental health facilities and police stations.

Rep. Verschoore said more lawmakers will add their names to the bill this week to join the 33 existing cosponsors. He said opposition from Chicago lawmakers that has stymied previous attempts to introduce concealed carry was less likely to succeed because of the court ruling.

"Why do 49 other states have this and Illinois doesn't?," Rep. Vershoore said.

State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, also supports concealed carry. He said it was in the interest of those who oppose concealed carry to compromise. If they don't do so by the end of the legislature's spring session, the state could be forced to introduce concealed carry without their input.

Rep. Smiddy also is one of 15 lawmakers from throughout Illinois appointed to Lt. Gov. Simon's bipartisan firearms working group, which will meet with opponents and proponents of concealed carry as the legislature debates the issue.