Illinois becomes last state to allow 'concealed carry'

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chicago guns

Illinois has become the last state in the US to allow residents to carry concealed handguns, after lawmakers overrode the governor's veto.

Large majorities in the state House and Senate dismissed objections by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn.

The state had been under court order to adopt a concealed carry law.

The debate over gun rights in the US has raged since December, when a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, at a school in Connecticut.

Gun rights proponents say the US constitution protects an individual's right to carry guns, while opponents of the concealed carry law feared it would allow virtually unregulated possession of handguns in the city of Chicago, which is grappling with a severe gun violence epidemic.

In December, a federal appeals court struck down Illinois' ban on carrying a concealed weapon as a violation of the US constitution's guarantee of the right to bear arms. The court gave the state six months to write a law legalising it.

Mr Quinn vigorously opposed a concealed carry law, but the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.

In May, the state legislature passed a bill despite his objections. He vetoed the bill, suggesting restrictions on concealed weapons that would satisfy him.

'A historic day'

On Tuesday, legislators in the House and Senate easily mustered a two-thirds majority needed to override Mr Quinn's veto, barely beating the court deadline.

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Can a movement that calls for more guns in the US be effective at saving lives?

"Following a weekend of horrific violence in Chicago in which at least 70 people were shot and 12 killed, this was the wrong move for public safety in Illinois," Mr Quinn said in a statement after the vote.

He said legislators had "surrendered" to the National Rifle Association, a powerful gun rights lobby funded in part by weapons manufacturers.

He warned the new law would allow people to carry guns in pubs and bars, and allow people to carry virtual arsenals on their persons.

Gun rights proponents, meanwhile, celebrated.

"This is a historic, significant day for law-abiding gun owners,'' Representative Brandon Harris, a southern Illinois Democrat said, according to the Associated Press.

Referring to the clause in the US constitution that refers to gun ownership, he said, "They finally get to exercise their Second Amendment rights."