Next week, the Illinois House is expected to vote on a controversial concealed carry bill. Thousands of pro-gun activists rallied in Springfield to support the measure last month, and now gun control groups--and law enforcement officers--are voicing their opposition.
Chicago police officers joined gun control groups in the state capital Wednesday, and said that flaws in the gun permit system would be amplified by allowing people to carry concealed firearms.
A 2009 Illinois State Police report cited "significant information gaps" in the state's ability to detect and screen out people with serious mental illnesses who might go on a shooting rampage. A state police official testified last week that those gaps still exist.
Illinois falls short in its reporting of psychiatric hospital admissions to the FBI as required by a federal law passed after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, according to the ISP report. Gaps also exist in reporting by health professionals and nursing homes of dangerous mentally ill people who should be disqualified from gun ownership under Illinois law.
"If we don't know their mental health background, we're at a disadvantage" when confronting potential suspects "and if they have the ability to have a weapon it makes our interaction even worse," Assistant Police Superintendent Jimmy Jackson told the AP.
Mark Walsh of the Illinois Coalition against Handgun Violence told NBC Chicago last month that, according to a recent study, concealed carry permit owners have been involved in 25 murder suicides, 17 mass shootings and at least 9 shootings of police officers since 2007.
The concealed carry measure has a lot of support downstate, even from Democrats, but Chicago-area lawmakers say their downstate colleagues should spend some time in Chicago before supporting such a bill.
"It's a different atmosphere that we live in," Sen. Terry Link told the Quad-City Times. "People live in fear constantly about guns. We do not want to start the wild, wild West up by us."
Illinois and Wisconsin are the last states in the country without some form of a conceal carry law. But, as the Journal Star reports, Wisconsin has recently moved to allow some residents to carry guns in plain sight, which advocates believe will lead to a conceal carry law.
No concealed carry bill has made it out of committee since 1990, and Governor Pat Quinn has reportedly vowed to veto the measure if it reaches his desk.