On Thursday, Illinois political journalist Rich Miller sent me a copy of a press release from Sen. Dan Kotowski's office. (I posted on the ongoing police investigation into alleged threats against Sen. Kotowski earlier.)
Here is Sen. Kotowski's statement:
Illinois State Senator Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) says threatening phone calls, faxes, and letters his office received during the past few months were handed over to local law enforcement including the Illinois State Police.
Kotowski says, “When someone calls my office saying, ‘I have a gun. I am going to come and kill you’, I have to worry about my safety, and the safety of our staff.” Kotowski added, “That is why I followed proper procedure and forwarded any correspondence with threatening material to the Illinois State Police.”
A recent release by the Illinois State Rifle Association accuses Kotowski of infringing on the First Amendment Rights of our citizens but Kotowski says this is ridiculous and irresponsible. “You won’t find a bigger advocate for free speech in the legislature, but someone’s right to free speech stops when they threaten to kill you.”
Kotowski and his office staff received threats during the first few months of the Spring Legislative Session, most of which specifically referred to his sponsorship of gun safety legislation. “If Illinois State Rifle Association members were as law abiding and anti crime as they claim, then they would be the first to condemn these threats and help to champion the cause for measures designed to get guns away from those with criminal intent.”
Kotowski concluded, “I believe that everyone should have a voice in the legislative process, but the ISRA does their membership no favors by perpetuating suspicious threats, and standing up for those who have misguided intentions.”
It's clear from this that the ISRA press release earlier in the week (and the follow-up release ostensibly condemning Father Michael Pfleger, but also throwing a false low-blow Sen. Kotowski's way) were simplistic attempts to distract attention from the real heart of the police investigation -- death threats against the Senator.
Here's a reminder from junior high civics -- the First Amendment doesn't cover death threats. And the police take such threats damn seriously, especially in the wake of 9/11, etc.
Sen. Kotowski, despite the ongoing police investigation, has answered the ISRA's petty demand for details as to why ISRA members received police visits.
It's time for Richard Pearson and the ISRA to make good on their word and condemn the ne'er-do-wells who have allegedly threatened the Senator's life. After months of heated vitriol, petty smears and outright lies from gun lobbyists attacking Sen. Kotowski's work representing his constituents in our state capitol it would be a respectable change of pace for the ISRA and others to come out strongly against those making such death threats.
If the ISRA can condemn Fr. Pfleger's poor choice of words in his overly firey rhetoric, they ought to be able to condemn someone who made an actual, clear-cut death threat.
And all those gun enthusiasts who gleefully copied and pasted those alarmist (and off-base) ISRA press releases? Maybe they'll now come back to their good senses and stop calling Sen. Kotowski and the police who are just doing their jobs all those petty, kindergarten names like Nazi, goon squad and the like.
Send your state senators all the faxes (and letters and calls) for or against whatever issue you like... But someone needs to make it clear that the line in the sand is drawn well before threatening anyone's life.
Then again, we are dealing with people who seem to enjoy making such threats as a routine matter of course as libertarian gun enthusiast Bill St. Clair makes clear when he tells us: "Sounds to me like Sen. Kotowski deserves to be threatened. Why, if he were to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head three times, it wouldn't surprise me one bit." (emphasis added)
If you don't want folks to treat you like fringe extremists and you don't want police thinking you could be the next Timothy McVeigh ... learn some self-control.
And again, the ISRA and other leading gun advocacy organizations have plenty of culpability here given the copious amounts of fuel they've been pouring on this fire. It's time they act like the leaders of the "safe, lawful and responsible firearms ownership" they claim to be.
(c/p at Illinois Reason and Daily Kos. Full disclosure: I endorsed and volunteered for Dan Kotowski in 2006.)