SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday that he wants the Illinois attorney general to appeal a federal court ruling that the state's last-in-the-nation concealed carry ban is unconstitutional, a move that would take it before the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Attorney General Lisa Madigan said she prefers to wait and see whether lawmakers craft a new law this spring that would allow the concealed carry of weapons, as the federal appeals court ordered them to do.
A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Illinois' ban last year and gave lawmakers until early June to legalize the practice. Last month, the court declined Madigan's request that the full appeals court reconsider the ruling.
The matter has led to intense hours-long hearings at the State Capitol, where lawmakers and anti-violence advocates from Chicago — which has seen a spike in violence — have been pitted against gun rights advocates from less populated and more conservative areas. The matter has placed Illinois in the spotlight at a time when the nationwide debate over gun control has been reignited.
Quinn, a Chicago Democrat who favors strict gun control including an assault weapons ban, said violence has been an "epidemic" in parts of the state and Illinois should be the nation's leader in keeping the concealed carry ban in place.
"The only hope now would be to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court," he told reporters after an unrelated event. "The attorney general ought to take a look at that and pursue that."
Madigan, who previously said she hadn't decided whether to appeal, appeared at the same event and said she thinks Illinois' current law banning concealed carry is constitutional. But she also wants to wait and see what lawmakers do.
"If the Legislature passes a bill, then appealing would not necessarily be something we need to do, because it would become moot," she said.
The disagreement sets two potential political rivals against each other on a tricky issue for Illinois leaders. Madigan is weighing a Democratic primary challenge against Quinn in next year's gubernatorial election but said Wednesday that she had not yet decided whether to run.
Like Quinn, Madigan is a Chicago Democrat who supports the proposed assault weapons ban, but any stand against concealed carry could alienate voters outside Chicago and other urban centers.
While she mulls a campaign, Madigan has appeared on the national stage in connection with a range of issues, including home foreclosures. Her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, is the head of the Democratic Party in Illinois and arguably the most powerful Democrat in the state.
On Wednesday, Lisa Madigan dismissed the notion that waiting for a decision on a Supreme Court appeal was a political maneuver related to her campaign plans.
The intense discussions in the Legislature continued Wednesday. A four-hour hearing saw tempers flaring. Republicans called the process malign, flawed and dilatory. Some visibly exasperated members of the caucus even kicked and pounded their desks when one of their motions was denied.
Since the court's December ruling, lawmakers have considered dozens of amendments dealing with concealed carry, many of which would restrict where guns could be carried. That includes gun prohibitions in schools, casinos, stadiums and other locales.
Gun rights advocates argue that the prohibition violates the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment and the appeals court ruling calls for a new law with very few restrictions, if any.
Sophia Tareen can be reached at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen .