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SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday promised to veto concealed carry legislation if it lands on his desk. But supporters say they may have enough votes to make the threat irrelevant.

By Diane Lee

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday promised to veto concealed carry legislation if it lands on his desk.

But that might not matter, according to supporters of the plan that would allow Illinois residents to carry concealed firearms in public.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers, mostly from downstate Illinois, are trying to round up enough votes to pass a plan in the Illinois House this week. It would require a supermajority of votes from both chambers, because the law would trump local regulations.

Concealed carry supporters would need 71 votes in the House and 36 votes in the Senate for a supermajority. And that’s the same number of votes lawmakers would need to override the governor’s threatened veto.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said on Tuesday he was trying to find enough support in the House to move his plan over to the Senate. Phelps said he wants to call House Bill 148 for a vote on Thursday, regardless of Quinn’s opposition.

“I just think that (Quinn) is wrong,” Phelps said. “And you agree to disagree. Sometimes people within your own party disagree with what they say. And I totally disagree with him today.”

Under HB 148, Illinois residents 21 and older could apply for permits to carry concealed firearms in public, except for places like schools, churches and inside state government buildings. Applicants would need to pass a written exam, firearms training exercises and background checks.

Quinn was in Chicago on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to vote against the plan.

“About two-thirds of the citizens of our state are steadfastly and strongly opposed to allow private citizens to carry loaded, concealed handguns in public places,” Quinn said.

State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said the opponents of concealed carry mostly live in and around Chicago. He is quick to say people downstate, and in other states, support the idea.

“I think all we are doing now, we are really helping the state of Illinois with what they got to do to get a license and stuff,” Forby said. “So all you are going to do is put guns in peoples’ good hands.”

Quinn said if the plan becomes law, it may lead to more violence.

“I don’t think that’s healthy, if you are going to the grocery store,” Quinn said. “You bump into somebody accidentally, and they take offense, they can pull out a loaded, concealed handgun to assuage their anger.”

State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said the plan would deter violence, because potential burglars would less likely rob homeowners with guns.

“I can only hope that he changes his mind once the bill gets to his desk,” Bomke said. “And I feel fairly confident it will. But it will be important that we have enough votes, a supermajority, to override his decision if he chooses to veto the bill.”

State Rep. Jason Barickman, R-Pontiac, said lawmakers have been working carefully to craft the plan.

“At the end of the day, we certainly would appreciate the governor’s support,” Barickman said. “But with him making it clear that he opposes this right, this constitutional right, this right that a mass number of people support. I think that we just have to continue lining up our legislative votes and push forward.”

Supporters of the legislation believe they have constitutionally protected right to carry guns and believe doing so makes them and society safer.

Illinois has a long history with attempts to pass concealed carry, but have fallen a few votes short, or have run into opposition from law enforcement groups.

The new Illinois State Police director, Hiram Grau, appeared with the governor Tuesday to express his opposition to the legislation. But the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association supports concealed carry.

State Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, hopes that’s enough support.

“A lot of people have worked on this very hard — lots of law enforcement input,” she said. “I think it is a very strong bill. And hopefully we could get it passed,” she said.

In the end though, state Rep. Richard Morthland, R-Cordova, said it won’t matter what the governor chooses to do with the legislation if there are enough votes.

“There is a last minute roll call being taken just trying to figure out where people are, and how we are doing, and do we have exactly the number of votes we need, how close are we,” Morthland said. “I think it looks good. Hopefully we will be able to move it this week.”

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