February 25, 2011
Illinois and Wisconsin are the last two states to deny concealed carry. Is there any hope for them?
Wisconsin has come oh so close to having concealed carry not once but twice, and with work, this could be the year. Illinois? Not so much.
Currently, only two states do not allow their citizens to practice concealed carry: Illinois and Wisconsin. But last year's midterm elections changed the political playing field enough--in Wisconsin, at least--so that concealed carry seems a real possibility there. Illinois? Gun owners in the Land of Lincoln may have a longer wait.
Actually, concealed carry got very close in Wisconsin in 2003 and 2006. Both times, carry legislation passed both state houses, only to be vetoed by Gov. Jim Doyle, a noted anti-gunner. In both cases, the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate were unable to muster the votes needed to override Doyle's vetoes.
But then came the November 2010 elections, which saw Republicans take substantial majorities in Wisconsin's Assembly and Senate. Scott Walker also took the governorship, and during his campaign promised to support concealed carry legislation.
Wisconsin is a legislative priority state for the National Rifle Association, says NRA spokesperson Rachel Parsons, and getting concealed carry here heads up that priority list. So, for the NRA, the 2010 election results bode well.
"But we don't want to get cocky," says Parsons. "We have a lot of work cut out for us in Wisconsin. We are going to be putting our resources into helping Wisconsin become a right-to-carry state."
"We've got the votes to introduce a concealed-carry bill, and the votes to bring it to committee for consideration," notes Bill Schmitz of Wisconsin Concealed Carry Association. "We have a governor-elect who said he'd sign a bill. But politics is still politics. You never say never."
In the past, anti-gun legislators unable to outright derail Wisconsin carry bills were able to insert language to make the bills closer to a "may issue" carry law, where a local official (usually a sheriff or police chief) could deny an application for any number of reasons. Schmitz's group anticipates similar backdoor attacks and says his group will fight for a "clean" bill--likely one that mandates "shall issue," where a carry applicant must be approved if standard criteria are met.
Wisconsin Gun Owners Inc. would also support a shall-issue law--but only as an option.
"A state carry permit would allow our citizens to have reciprocity with other carry states and be able to travel with their guns," explains Corey Graff, WGO executive director. "But we don't want shall issue to be an end-all and be-all."
What do Graff and WGO want? Vermont-style or Constitutional carry, where adult citizens can practice concealed carry without permits. With large conservative majorities in both state houses, and a conservative governor-elect, there's no need to compromise and pass anything less, Graff argues.
Neither choice appears to be an option for Illinois. True, Republicans replaced Democrats in several legislative districts last November.
"But those Democratic representatives were all pro-gun, so there was no real net change," says Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, an NRA affiliate.
Gov. Pat Quinn was reelected, "and he was endorsed by the Brady Campaign," Pearson adds. "So you can pretty much guess where he's at with concealed carry."
He notes that passing a concealed-carry bill would need a "super majority," meaning 60 percent "yes" votes to get through the Illinois legislature.
The same super majority would be required to then override Quinn's all-but-guaranteed veto. Right now, Pearson notes, the legislature simply doesn't have enough pro-Second Amendment legislators to pull this off.
"It will take an extraordinary effort to get concealed carry passed here in the near future," Pearson admits.