The Wisconsin legislature recently passed a law that allows individuals to obtain a concealed carry permit, making it the 49th state to give its people full Second Amendment Rights. Not surprisingly, the 50th and only state left suppressing Second Amendment rights is Illinois.
"It's embarrassing. We're the last ones," said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg. "Every other state tends to believe this is a right, not a privilege, and they have let their law-abiding citizens do it, and I don't know why we should be any different.
"We're not going to go away. We're going to keep pushing it."
But Phelps faces stiff opposition from Chicago and suburban lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn, who said last week he is proud Illinois is the last state not to allow concealed carry and that he would veto any bill allowing it.
So Phelps said he plans to talk to officials in Cook County and Chicago about a compromise, including the possibility of allowing local officials to decide whether people can carry concealed weapons.
"I don't want to leave anybody out, but you know what, we've got to start looking at things and maybe try a different approach," said Phelps, acknowledging the National Rifle Association believes any Illinois law should allow every citizen in the state who is eligible to carry a concealed gun. "A lot of their (NRA) members would support it (allowing local governments to decide). We're going to talk to them. We're going to talk to every other group, too."
In recent years, neither side of the gun debate has been effective at getting their bills passed.
Chicago lawmakers who favor banning assault weapons or limiting gun purchases on a monthly basis have been unable to gain traction, due to lack of downstate support.
Democratic Rep. Edward Acevedo, a Chicago police officer and opponent of concealed carry, said there may be room for urban lawmakers to consider Mitchell's bill, if he and other gun-rights supporters are willing to compromise on other issues, such as placing more restrictions on assault weapons.
"It's something I might be willing to look at. I think this subject will continue to come up. If I'm willing to deal with that . . . then maybe they should hear me out as far as my ban on assault weapons," Acevedo said. "I would be willing to sit at table and negotiate a deal where you give me something and I'll give you something."
The arguments for and against concealed carry remain largely the same. Phelps argues that fears about Wild West-style shootouts have been unfounded.
Meanwhile, rampant crime continues in Chicago while other states experience drops in crime with the passing of concealed carry laws.