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Firearms Working Group to help craft concealed carry law in Illinois

Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon announced the members of her new bipartisan Firearms Working Group on Tuesday, in response to a recent

federal appeals court decision that struck down the state’s ban on concealed weapons. The group is comprised of about a dozen members of the General Assembly from across the state, most of them Democrats, that will work together to find a consensus on how best to implement new concealed carry legislation.

Simon said her goal in creating the group is to facilitate a productive conversation about guns that will “make the legislative process an effective one.” The group plans to meet with law enforcement officials, mental health experts, and gun rights advocates to discuss how to best implement the concealed carry law.

“We’re targeting to make sure that people understand other perspectives,” Simon said at a press conference in Chicago’s Thompson Center.

Illinois was the only state in the union with a law banning the carrying of concealed weapons until December, when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law unconstitutional. The state has until June to develop a new law.

All of the Firearms Working Group members expressed optimism that they will be able to help bridge the divide between urban and rural perspectives on guns.

“I think we’re going to have a very good discussion because the group is very diversified,” said Rep. Emanuel Welch (D-Hillside). Welch represents the western suburbs, and is the only member of the group from Cook County.

“Being from Cook County, this is a very serious issue for us,” Welch said. “We had over 500 murders in the city last year, and I attended far too many funerals for students who were victims of gun violence.”

Welch wants to make sure that concealed weapons are not allowed in certain places, citing a fear of a drunken bar scenario involving people with concealed weapons. Sen. Mike Hastings (D-Orland Park), an Iraq War veteran and gun owner, mentioned similar concerns.

“During my tour, I saw young children carrying semi-automatic weapons, so I know what can happen when guns fall into the wrong hands,” Hastings said. “I want to ensure that we provide safe guidelines.”

Simon said she recruited only freshman congressmen for the group because they haven’t been influenced yet by pro-gun, or anti-gun lobbyists.

“As freshmen, I think [they’re] perfect for the group,” Simon said.

The Firearms Working Group will work on the concealed carry law first, “because we have a ticking deadline,” Simon said. Once the law is passed, the group plans to discuss other gun related issues.

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