SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate could vote as early as Friday on a plan to allow citizens to carry loaded weapons in some public places.

But, the legislation faces opposition from downstate senators on both sides of the aisle because it would allow cities to impose their own rules on concealed weapons, creating a patchwork of gun laws.

“You’re going to have to have something that’s statewide that is good from Cairo to Chicago,” said state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton.

State Sen. Tim Bivins, a Dixon Republican, agreed, saying different laws in different cities would result in confusion for gun owners and police.

“That’s a major concern,” said Bivins, a former Lee County sheriff.

Reaction to the pending legislation came after members of the Senate Executive Committee voted 10-4 Thursday in favor of a plan allowing gun owners to apply to the Illinois State Police for a permit to carry firearms in public.

Applicants wanting to carry a gun in Chicago would need separate permission from city police.

The proposal would ban loaded weapons in schools, hospitals, public transit and other potentially sensitive areas.

And, it would allow home rule communities to impose their own additional rules concerning where weapons could be carried.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said the proposed law attempts to strike a balance between the desires of downstate gun owners to carry their weapons in public against concerns that more guns in Chicago could spur even more violence. He said Chicago is different from the rest of the state.

“There’s a density issue that creates a lot more contact between individuals. There’s a lot more opportunity for conflict,” Raoul said.

The General Assembly is facing a federal court order to get a law on the books by June 9 that will bring Illinois in line with the rest of the nation when it comes to allowing people to carry concealed weapons.

“If lawmakers do nothing, on June 9 we could have more than 200 different ordinances regulating concealed carry – one for each home rule municipality,” Raoul said.

Republican state Sens. Dale Righter of Mattoon and Dave Luechtefeld of Okawville opposed the legislation during the hour-long committee debate.

Righter said the law gives Chicago police officials too much leeway in determining who gets permits.

The National Rifle Association, which is working with members of the House on a different proposal, said Raoul’s plan will result in additional litigation from gun owners.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” said NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde.

The legislation is House Bill 183.

Kurt Erickson can be reached at kurt.erickson@lee.net or 217-782-4043

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