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Another Concealed Carry Bill Passes Out Of State House Committee

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- As it does every year, a concealed carry bill surfaced in a state House committee and passed – but its future is, again, uncertain.

As WBBM Newsradio's Alex Degman reports, state Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) is again leading the charge as he has for years. His measure would allow Illinois residents with the proper training and permits to carry a concealed firearm.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Alex Degman reports


The arguments are the same – proponents say guns are needed for protection, opponents say more guns equal more violence. Phelps responded to that by saying people only need to look around.

"We're the only state," he says. "If it was so bad why are there no other states trying to repeal this? It works. Crime has gone down everywhere this has gone into effect. So why are we the only ones?"

A popular theory advanced by former University of Chicago research fellow John Lott argues that violent crime will go down if more people possess guns, since violent criminals will be deterred by the threat of an armed victim.

But when it comes to the proposed Illinois law, a point of contention this year is whether colleges and universities can ban them on campus.

"The presidents of the colleges have said they don't want any form of concealed carry on their campuses. So that's fine, but if they disarm that person that has a permit, and something happens like at Northern Illinois with the shooting, then they're going to get the liability," he says.

Phelps says the measure that easily passed out of the Agriculture and Conservation committee is not the final version, and he'll try to find common ground with the universities.

The bill would preempt local ordinances in home-rule communities such as Chicago, which means it needs 71 votes to pass. Last year's bill got 65, and Phelps is confident he has picked up a few more since last year.

Separate from the state legislation, a gun rights group is trying to legalize concealed carry in Illinois by way of the judicial system.

The Second Amendment Foundation says not allowed to concealed carry is like asking citizens to "check our constitutional rights at the front door."

Last month, a federal judge in Springfield ruled against the Second Amendment Foundation. U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough ruled Monday that the Second Amendment allows citizens to protect themselves in their homes, but not on the street.

The group is now appealing the decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, a downstate Republican Congressman has been pushing for a federal law that would guarantee the right to carry concealed weapons nationwide.

In December, downstate U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) introduced the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, HR 3543, which would permit anyone who obtains a permit to carry a concealed weapon in another state to carry weapons legally in Illinois.

In a news release on his Web site, Johnson characterizes carrying concealed weapons as a "constitutional right" that should be guaranteed to all citizens, saying "the Second Amendment could not be more clear on this issue."

Johnson blames Cook County for the fact that concealed carry still is not permitted in Illinois.

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