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Illinois could end last state ban on carrying concealed guns

By Greg McCune

CHICAGO (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's home state of Illinois, the only one in the United States to have a law prohibiting the carrying of concealed guns, could lift the ban on Tuesday when lawmakers are expected to vote on the measure.

Leaders of the state House of Representatives and Senate have scheduled debate on Governor Pat Quinn's veto of parts of the proposal to allow concealed guns in public.

If three-fifths of the legislators in each chamber vote to override the governor, the prohibition on concealed weapons will end in a victory for the gun rights lobby, the National Rifle Association.

Brandon Phelps, an Illinois Democratic House member who sponsored the measure to legalize concealed carry, said on Monday he has the votes to override the governor's veto but the outcome depends on how many lawmakers show up for a special session in Springfield.

The measure passed by the legislature says that the Illinois authorities "shall issue" a permit to carry concealed guns to any applicant who passes a background check and takes required firearms training.

The legislature passed the measure after a federal appeals court struck down the state prohibition on concealed carry last December, saying it violated the Constitutional right to bear arms. The court gave Illinois until July 9 to enact a new law.

Gun control has been a hot national issue since 20 children and six adults were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, last December, prompting Obama to push Congress for tighter gun laws.

But the issue has divided the state Democratic party along urban-rural lines. Many lawmakers from Chicago, where gun violence and the murder rate have surged, want tighter gun control laws. In more rural areas where hunting is popular, lawmakers prefer more permissive rules.

Democrat Quinn last week vetoed parts of the measure, calling it a flawed bill that would endanger public safety.

If the state legislature does not overturn Quinn's veto on Tuesday, or approve the changes he has sought to the bill, the court decision will go into effect striking down the existing ban and leaving an uncertain situation.

"It will be chaos. It will be mayhem," Phelps said.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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