By Michael Romain
An Illinois House bill that, if passed into law, would’ve effectively wiped out an ordinance here in Maywood that bans the carrying of concealed weapons was defeated in the Senate Executive Committee on Tuesday by a 10-6 vote. Village Ordinance 130.81(a) states, “A person who is not a Village officer shall not carry about his person any concealed pistol, switchblade, knife, metal knuckles or any other weapon or thing of deadly character.”
The Senate Executive Committee, of which former Maywood resident Sen. Kimberly Lightford is a member, voted instead to approve a stricter proposal that would keep local ordinances banning concealed weapons intact.
The failed House proposal, which passed the lower chamber by a vote of 85-30, called for eliminating local gun laws in municipalities, permitting establishments that sale less than 50 percent of alcohol to allow patrons to carry guns on their premises and requiring law enforcement authorities to issue permits to anyone deemed qualified to own a gun. Typically, such qualification entails accumulating at least “16 hours of gun-safety training – most in the nation – [passing] a background check and [paying] a $150 fee,” according to an article by the Associated Press.
Rep. Chris Welch (D-7th), who was born and raised in Maywood, said the House bill was negotiated “by a committee that didn’t include one black legislature – there are 20 of us – and not one Hispanic legislature – there are 6 of them. So it didn’t take into consideration the communities that I represent, which deal with gun violence everyday.”
Welch’s reason for voting against the bill seems an inversion of Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan’s reason for voting in support of it. Madigan noted that the proposal’s single, statewide standard for dealing with gun ownership would eliminate confusion.
“As people attempted to move about the state,” said Madigan in the AP article, “they would contemplate the possibility that there would be a change in the rules up to 220 times” (220 being the number of home-rule communities in Illinois, each with different gun ordinances).
But Madigan’s reasoning doesn’t seem to take into account the fact that this statewide diversity in gun legislation may be necessary to accommodate diverse local conditions, a reality that a uniform, blanket approach to gun control may only exacerbate.
The House proposal derived its power to basically wipe out local ordinances controlling concealed weapons from a provision in the state constitution called preemption. “What preemption does,” Welch said, “is preempt home-rule municipalities from passing a law on something if we [the State legislature] pass a law on that issue with 71 or more votes.” Since the House proposal garnered 85 votes, it was well above the threshold for preemption.
Rep. Christian Mitchell, in the same AP article, called the bill a “massive dismantling of local administration of gun safety” and that it’s the “opposite of small government […] This bill is massive overreach, it is dangerous […]”.
Perhaps the most potent danger is the bill’s disregard for local variations in how guns affect people’s lives. While carrying concealed weapons may be relatively benign behavior in certain areas of rural Southern Illinois, it constitutes extremely hazardous behavior in much more dense urban and semi-urban areas such as Maywood.
“There’s no reason people should be allowed to walk the street with military style weapons,” Rep. Welch said. “These weapons will make the light in ‘The Village of Eternal Light’ go dim very quickly.” VFP