LITTLE VILLAGE — Parts of the Midwest could look more like "the Wild West" if a decision isn't reached soon on how Illinois will comply with a federal court ruling requiring the state pass a law regulating the carrying of concealed weapons, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Monday.
Dart, speaking at a news conference, proposed a concealed carry ordinance that would go into effect in Cook County if a state law is not enacted by the June 9 deadline set by the federal court.
"The [concealed carry] battle is over," Dart said. "Now it's about how to do it."
The problem, Dart said, is that too little thought has been given to what will happen if lawmakers fail to refine the state law banning concealed carry.
The sheriff said he'd prefer that lawmakers in Springfield enact statewide legislation before the looming deadline, but added that he's not optimistic the "polarized" General Assembly will do so.
"Many, many issues [in Springfield] never get addressed, but this one we can't let go," he said.
If a decision is not reached and an extension is not granted, "anyone with a FOID card could have concealed weapons wherever they want — it would be wide open," he added.
Dart's proposal would "provide a framework for [the department] to feel comfortable with the issue of concealed carry," he said.
Under the proposal, the sheriff would be able to grant or deny concealed carry licenses "based on need" as well as the applicants' meeting state requirements.
Additionally, residents would not be able to carry concealed weapons in a number of public spaces, including mass transit, schools, hospitals, police stations and amusement parks.
The sheriff isn't the only one planning stop-gap measures during the General Assembly deadlock. One Houston-based organization, the Armed Citizen Project, wants to put shotguns in the hands of residents living in the city's high-crime neighborhoods in an effort to deter crime in Chicago.
The project, backed by private donors, was rejected by residents in Englewood Sunday, but Dart said he's open to ideas that are thoughtful and compelling — as long as the group in question is not a "front for the National Rifle Association."
In the event of a challenge from gun-control advocate Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has until June 24 to appeal the federal court's ruling, Dart's proposal could become moot. Likewise, a home rule decision from Chicago lawmakers could potentially supersede his ordinance within the city's borders.
The sheriff said he expects his proposal will be challenged in court either way.