Toni Preckwinkle's Testimony on Illinois' Proposed Conceal Carry Law

February 22, 2013

My name is Toni Preckwinkle.  I am President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.  Chairman Nekritz, Vice-Chairman Williams and Minority Spokesman Reboletti — I appreciate the opportunity to testify before your committee this morning.

I was a school teacher on the south side of Chicago and a Board Member of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.  I have seen firsthand what gun violence does to families — what it has done to neighborhoods throughout Cook County — and what it has done to too many patients who come through the Emergency Room at Stroger Hospital for treatment.

This committee has an exceptionally important job to accomplish in the next few months — to address the conceal and carry issue in a manner that is responsible for all parts of our state.   Consequently, I respectfully ask you to consider the following factors as you continue to deliberate this issue:

Please consider the findings in the April, 2012 Management Audit of the State Police’s Administration of the Firearm Owner’s Identification Act.  This audit contained many findings, including the fact that the current FOID card application fee does not fully pay for the cost of the FOID card program — in particular the costs of a comprehensive background check.

If one applies for a FOID card, he or she should pay an application fee that covers the total cost of the card. And the fee for a FOID card should be revisited yearly to account for increased costs of background checks and to ensure that no other line-item in our state budget is reduced to pay for the additional cost associated with FOID card program administration.

Every time a person with valid FOID card seeks to purchase or transfer a weapon to another individual, a comprehensive background check should be performed on the person seeking to own that weapon.

We must ensure that our laws prohibit those with mental illness and serious criminal convictions from purchasing or possessing a weapon. There also should be an updated, universal database accessible to law enforcement personnel across the state of Illinois.  Our sheriffs and police departments deserve a system that allows them to easily verify who is qualified under the law to carry a firearm.

Any legislative proposal must contain the provision that if your gun is lost or stolen the owner of record has the legal responsibility to report that loss or theft within a prescribed period of time to both state and local law enforcement.

And a stringent requirement that mandates a comprehensive training and safety program that is certified or approved by both the Illinois State Police and the sheriff of the county in which the applicant lives should be a part of any bill that is considered.

Those on both sides of the conceal and carry debate should support all five of these suggestions.  At the most basic level, these suggestions say you should pay for a background check for the privilege of owning a firearm; if you lose your weapon or it is stolen — you should be required to notify law enforcement; and you should be highly trained to handle a weapon.

The topic of conceal and carry is one that garners strong emotions and debate.  I believe if we can agree on anything today, it is that the state of Illinois is exceptionally diverse. While some solutions to an issue may work in one area of our state — they may not be practical in another.  It is from that premise that I offer suggestions on this issue.

While I acknowledge the ruling of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on conceal and carry, and, with full disclosure, I hope the Attorney General’s motion for rehearing before the entire Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is granted — I ask you to consider the following when crafting legislation:

Elementary, secondary and higher education buildings should be gun-free zones.  Instead of simply being a location where our children and young adults go to learn — schools are a place where many of our children go to eat their only meals of the day, receive basic health care, and spend time after school because they have working parents or guardians.  If any place within our communities should be free of weapons — it is our schools.

Government owned and operated buildings should be gun-free zones. Weapons should not be allowed at city council, school board or county board meetings.  They should not be allowed where judicial proceedings are being held, where custody determinations are made, or near criminal proceedings.

One should not be allowed to possess a weapon in a hospital or nursing home;

Houses of worship should be gun-free zones;

Business owners and managers should also be allowed to prohibit firearm possession within their establishments by appropriately notifying patrons; and

All home rule units of local government should maintain the ability to determine other appropriate firearm restrictions consistent with the law.

I could go on, but respecting the amount of time the committee will meet today, I will stop there.  I appreciate the opportunity to testify before this committee and I am happy to answer any questions you may have for me.