SPRINGFIELD — Three years after Illinois allowed citizens to carry concealed firearms, legislators from both parties continue to try to fine tune the law.
Lawmakers have proposed new areas allowable to carry a concealed weapon including public transportation, interstate highway rest areas controlled by the Illinois Department of Transportation and public parks and athletic facilities under the control of a park district or municipality.
In addition, bills have been introduced to allow concealed carry within courthouses under certain conditions.
“It’s a work in progress in terms of making sure our Second Amendment rights are protected in Illinois,” said Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, who co-sponsored the original bill. “When you have something that big of a landmark and that important, you want to make sure you get it right.”
The Illinois General Assembly passed the concealed carry law in July 2013 under the pressure of a federal court deadline; it was the last state to do so. There have been tweaks to the law since, though there have been no changes to areas where concealed carry is allowed.
“There are many individuals throughout the state of Illinois who rely on public transit as their primary mode of transportation,” said Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton, who is sponsoring House Bill 6047 allowing for concealed carry on public transportation. “I do not believe their Second Amendment rights should be infringed upon simply because they take a train or bus rather than driving their own vehicle.”
However, the Chicago Transit Authority, the second largest public transportation system in the nation, is questioning the safety of the proposal.
“Allowing people to carry concealed weapons on our buses and trains that provide more than 1.6 million rides every day would bring an increased and significant safety risk to both customers and employees,” said Jeff Tolman, Chicago Transit Authority spokesman. “It could also lead to increased insurance rates and higher security costs, which would undermine the safe and affordable service that we provide to the Chicago area.”
Costello said he will work with IDOT, mass transit authorities and all applicable agencies to ensure that their safety concerns are addressed.
Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said that not allowing concealed carry within public transportation could discourage travel through Illinois.
A loss of visitors is also cited for lifting the ban at the 30 IDOT-controlled rest areas in the state where concealed carry is prohibited. IDOT did not respond to a request for comment on that proposal.
House Bill 5792 would allow a circuit or associate judge, state's attorney or assistant state's attorney to carry within a courthouse, but not inside the courtroom. When it is not being carried, the firearm is to be in a locked compartment in a secure area designated by the sheriff or chief judge.