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negatively impact district

By Mike Sandrolini

WESTCHESTER  | Seventh District State Rep. Chris Welch expressed deep concern
earlier this week about Illinois’ new concealed carry law, which allows citizens who are
properly vetted to possess firearms.

“I think it’s going to impact the Seventh District negatively,” said Welch (D-Hillside),
who was elected to his first term in the State House last November. “I don’t think this
bill takes into account urban areas like Maywood and the city of Chicago.

“Right now, violence is at an all-time high. What we’ve done is make it easier to get
access to guns. We don’t have a way to track those guns. You can carry an unlimited
number of guns.”

Earlier this month, the state House and Senate voted to override Gov. Pat Quinn’s
amendatory veto of a compromise concealed carry bill. A bill was mandated by a
federal court ruling last December which stated that Illinois’ ban on concealed carry
was unconstitutional.

Illinois is the last state to allow concealed carry.

The House overrode Quinn’s veto by a 77-31 vote, while the Senate voted 41-17 to
override the veto. Welch was one of 31 House members who supported the governor.

“The governor’s override amendatory veto I thought was a good veto,” Welch said. “I
supported the veto. I voted not to override it because I thought his changes were
common-sense changes to the bill.”

Among the changes Quinn proposed was to limit a person to carry one firearm at a
time, restricting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and barring firearms from places
that sell alcohol.

“I’m hoping that some of those changes will appear in the law next year,” Welch said.
“This bill is currently the law as it is right now, but we are always amending and
changing bills. They’re called trailer bills, and I think a trailer bill (in regard to
concealed carry) is going to come fairly quickly.”

Under the new law, firearms cannot be carried into taverns, casinos, stadiums, parks
and forest preserves, schools, public gatherings, government buildings, zoos,
libraries and museums, nor will the public be allowed to carry firearms on public
transportation.  

Welch said he fears concealed carry will produce cases in Illinois similar to Trayvon
Martin, the 17-year-old African-American high school student who was shot by
George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator for a gated Sanford, Fla.,
community, following a confrontation. Zimmerman’s attorneys argued that
Zimmerman, an Hispanic of mixed race, acted in self-defense under Florida’s “Stand
Your Ground” statute. A jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and
manslaughter last weekend.

“I think this law is unfortunately going to create more Trayvon Martins,” Welch said,
“and unfortunately those Trayvon Martins are going to be right here in the state of
Illinois.”

With concealed carry now the law in Illinois, addressing the state’s burgeoning
pension crisis is front and center for Quinn and state lawmakers. The pension system
is underfunded by nearly $100 billion, the worst of any state.

Recently, Quinn, through a line-item veto, suspended legislators’ pay, as well as his
own, in an effort to prod lawmakers to act on pension reform. The House and Senate
can override the governor’s decision to suspend their pay, but Welch said he
supports Quinn, who called lawmakers back to Springfield for a special session and
gave them until July 9 to reach an agreement.

“I think he did a good job,” Welch said. “I think he did the right thing. No wages until
the job is done.

“We need to get something done. I supported what the governor did because I agree
that something’s got to get done. The state’s in a fiscal crisis, so why should we get
paid until the job is done?”