Illinois House erupts over ‘may issue’ gun bill

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2-City-_General_Assembly_conceal_carry.jpgIllinois Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, argues gun legislation while on the House floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol Wednesday, April 17, 2013, in Springfield Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Anyone who doubts the division in Illinois over gun control need look no further than the state House on Wednesday, where a pro-gun Republican — goaded by a Democrat — exploded during debate over whether the state should adopt a concealed carry law similar to New York’s.

It put the presiding officer in the virtually unprecedented position of yelling for order and threatening to call doormen, presumably to remove overheated Republican Rep. Mike Bost, who calmed down once, only to blow up a again after a snarky response from his tormenter.

“So here’s my point, members: We don’t want someone like that carrying a concealed weapon,” Democratic Rep. Scott Drury, who had the floor, deadpanned after the chamber came to order.

Drury’s quip brought Bost to his feet again, which drew an even sterner warning from Assistant Majority Leader Al Riley, an Olympia Fields Democrat who held the gavel. Riley demanded deference to the chair and added, “The next thing I will say is I will call the doorkeepers.”

It was all over an amendment that failed miserably, 31-76.

Since a federal appeals court ruled in December that Illinois must abandon its status as the nation’s last state to prohibit the concealed carry of firearms, gun-rights advocates have been frustrated by Chicago Democrats who have their own ideas about what shape that law should take.

Bost, who is from the southern Illinois community of Murphysboro, stood to oppose an amendment to a bill by Chicago Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy. It would legalize concealed carry but authorize each county sheriff to deny individual permits, with the state police having the final say. Bost questioned the constitutionality of such a “may carry” provision.

Freshman Rep. Scott Drury challenged the notion, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal over the constitutionality of New York’s law — “the only opinion we have on the books from constitutional scholars.”

“The last time I looked around, there’s not one single constitutional scholar sitting in this chamber,” said Drury, a Democrat from Highwood, in north suburban Chicago. “So why don’t we stop with all the nonsense?”

Bost, without aid of a microphone, started yelling, pointing at Drury and pounding his desk. That led to Riley repeatedly calling for order.

After things settled down a second time, Riley directed Drury to show respect in his comments too.

Bost later apologized to Riley. A few minutes later, Drury apologized, claiming his comments were not meant to be taken personally.

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals declared Illinois’ ban on concealed carry unconstitutional and gave the state until early June to enact a law.

Bost said he was initially angered that Drury claimed complaints were only coming from the GOP side of the House, when opposition was also voiced by Democratic Rep. Brandon Phelps, who is from the southern Illinois community of Harrisburg. Phelps is sponsoring “shall carry” legislation that would require police to give permits to anyone who passes a background check.

The gun issue in Illinois divides more along regional lines — anti-violence Chicagoans versus sports-shooters, hunters and conservatives outside the city — than it does along strictly political lines.

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