Passions stir at gun hearing in Springfield

By Denise Jackson

February 19, 2013 Updated Feb 19, 2013 at 11:29 PM CDT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- As a federal court deadline approaches, the Illinois state legislature works on a plan to bring concealed carry to the state.

Even with a federal mandate in place, legislators are trying to ensure that cooler heads prevail in a often steamy debate.

Armed with passion, conviction and determination, supporters on both sides of the concealed carry issue testified before the Illinois House Judiciary committee Tuesday afternoon. The loaded chamber erupted several times with comments and applause as committee members addressed the panel.

"We had a anti-gun advocate say in his testimony, we'll get you copies, ever since they passed concealed carry that crime has not increased" said Chicago area Committee member Brandon Phelps.

"If you want to look at the studies that say global warming is a fiction, you can look at only those studies and feel very good about yourself. But if you want to look at the truth you have to look at all the studies," said Attorney Lee Goodman of the group "Stop Conceal and Carry".

House member Brandon Phelps is the chief sponsor of a conceal carry bill which could be amended. The challenge for legislators is devising a plan suitable for Chicago, which has seen record homicides in recent years, and smaller cities like Peoria, where crime is much lower.

"I think if some of the individual representatives have some concerns they need to bring those concerns forward, we can see what accommodations we can workout. If they're valid concerns versus some of the irrational fears we've heard then we can see what tweaks we need to make," said Todd Vandermyde of the National Rifle Association.

Some people attending the hearing called for universal background checks and assurances guns won't get into the hands of irresponsible people.

"I think people taking responsibility for guns is not the problem that we have in the country it's easy access to the secondary marketplace," said Thomas Vanden Berk of UCAN.

Right now Illinois is the only state without a concealed carry gun law. In December, a Federal court struck down the state's ban, calling it unconstitutional.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has appealed the court's decision.

Two more concealed carry hearings are scheduled. The legislature has until June to come up with a conceal carry law. If it fails to do so constitutional carry will take effect.

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