State Sen. Tim Bivins, who served 2 decades as Lee County sheriff, used to carry a weapon for a living.
Now, the Dixon Republican has chalked up a legislative victory on the issue of the public being allowed to carry concealed weapons.
In a Senate chamber where Democrats have a commanding 40-19 advantage, Bivins knows he was fortunate to be allowed to contribute to the process.
The ball got rolling earlier this year when Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, informed Sen. Christine Radogno, the Senate Republican leader, that he wanted Republican input on concealed carry.
Radogno asked Bivins to represent the GOP in negotiations with the Democrats, who were led by state Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago.
Raoul and Bivins were “under the gun,” so to speak, as the Legislature was under a federal appeals court order to pass a concealed-carry bill by June 9. Illinois is the only state left to ban the carrying of concealed weapons.
Bivins said he and Raoul talked extensively about what belonged in the bill. There were plenty of disagreements along the way, he said.
“Our state is quite diverse and has a wide range of opinions on the issue of concealed carry,” Bivins said in a written statement.
“It was a long process, and at the end of the day, not everyone is happy with it, all the way around. It is not a perfect bill, but it will serve the citizens. It accomplishes what we set out to do,” he said.
The bill, which won approval in both houses, would require the State Police to issue a concealed-carry permit to any gun owner with a Firearm Owners Identification card if that person passes a background check, pays a $150 fee, and undergoes 16 hours of training.
However, restrictions were placed on where concealed guns can be taken. Schools, taverns and parks are off limits, although guns would be allowed to be kept securely in a vehicle. Local controls on handguns and the lawful transportation of firearms would be curbed.
The bill now rests on Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk. A federal judge on Tuesday gave Quinn a 30-day extension to decide whether to sign it. The deadline to legalize concealed carry is now July 9.
The bill underwent several variations as politicians and interest groups weighed in. Bivins said he believes the version that was approved was one of the most favorable he had seen.
Bivins deserves credit for the role he played in crafting such a high-profile piece of legislation.
The entire process proves how Democrats and Republicans of good will can tackle and solve a difficult problem through compromise. Frankly, with an impatient federal appeals judge looking over their shoulders, they had to.
It would be even better if legislators, on their own, could reach compromise solutions on pension reform, Illinois’ tough finances, and other thorny issues. We urge them to give it a try.