Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gun bill rejection is rural Illinois' annual "forget you" to Chicago

Every year for most of the nearly 20 years that Richard M. Daley has been mayor, he has pushed his people who work at the Statehouse in Springfield to get the Illinois General Assembly to approve a statewide ban on handguns similar to what is already THE LAW in Chicago.

The measures always get through legislative committees, where Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan – in keeping with his unofficial role of keeping the Legislature in line with Chicago’s desires – uses his pull to ensure that the issue gets a hearing.

Then, the Illinois House of Representatives engages in a rare act of bipartisanship as rural and suburban lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, come to the conclusion that “the enemy” is Chicago. They gang up, and vote the measure down.

At a time when the rural portions of Illinois only account for one-third (at most) of the state’s population, this issue has become one of the annual acts of state government. They kill off Daley’s dreams of gun control to show him that he can’t run roughshod over the rest of Illinois.

The most recent political killing took place Wednesday.

This year, Daley allies weren’t so bold as to push for any outright bans on firearms. What they wanted this year was creation of a state law that would have required the sale of handguns in Illinois to occur only at federally licensed firearms dealers – who must comply with laws requiring criminal background checks.

It was a measure designed by Chicago city officials to get around laws that allow private sales of firearms by dealers at gun shows, where background checks on the gun buyers are non-existent.

City-oriented officials argue that these private dealers are the loop hole by which handguns wind up in the possession of people who otherwise would not be able to get a gun, but rural people say the Daley-desired change in law would criminalize individuals who privately sell a pistol to a friend.

The bill received a 58-58 vote, with two other legislators – Eddie Washington of Waukegan and Jim Watson of Jacksonville – not voting because of excused absences. Had those two legislators cast votes for the measure (a long-shot), it would have passed with the bare minimum of 60 votes.

Now for those who think the city is being picked on by the rest of the state, keep in mind that Daley allies knew full well they would lose again this year. A similar measure had already been rejected this spring. There was only one reason for the bill to be called for a vote, and that was because of Wednesday’s date.

April 16, 2008 is the one-year anniversary of the shootings at Virginia Tech University where 32 students were killed when a well-armed student went on a rampage on campus.

Every single one of the 58 state representatives who voted against the Daley plan now runs the risk of having campaign advertising used against them that tells would-be voters how their local legislator celebrated, so-to-speak, the one-year anniversary of Virginia Tech by voting against “reasonable restrictions” on firearms.

Some of the legislators who come from suburban areas (who are only voting against the measure because they are Republicans opposing Democrat Daley) could run the risk of losing votes from people in their legislative districts who are not government junkies and do not follow the nuances of every single one of the thousands of bills that come before the General Assembly every year.

For rural legislators, this is less of an issue. Many come from small communities where rifle ownership can often be a cultural tie passed down from generation to generation. They are more likely to want to believe whatever spin the Illinois State Rifle Association wants to put on the issue, rather than the Daley spin.

Wednesday’s legislative action is a case of rural Illinois exerting what little influence it still holds (as they will be the first to tell you, all of the state constitutional officers and the General Assembly’s top leaders are from Chicago) on an issue where it believes the city’s desires are too far at odds with their own.

It literally becomes an issue where Southern Illinois Democrats have no problem breaking with their Chicago counterparts to unite with central Illinois Republicans to show that they are united in their desire not to be an extension of Chicago.

One legislator, Mike Bost of Murphysboro, said he thinks this year’s measure would have made criminals of the gun dealers who operate heavily in his area, and would not have any significant impact on violence in the city.

“It’s not going to cure your problem with criminals in your city with handguns,” Bost told the Bloomington, Ill.-based Pantagraph newspaper.

“Your problem,” and “your city.” That is the sad thing.

Guns have become an issue of regionalism overcoming common sense and a desire to reduce violence, made worse by the fact that “Illinois” is, at best, a theoretical concept – rather than a distinct region with unified interests.

This different perspective is not new. I still remember the 1998 Democratic primary for governor – when eventual nominee Glenn Poshard (who takes great pride in being a Southern Illinois native with no ties to Chicago) started off the campaign as an outspoken critic of any measures to restrict firearm ownership.

Eventually, though, even Poshard moderated his talk against gun control, often telling the story of how he visited a Chicago hospital emergency room at a moment when some shootings were being treated.

He would say during the latter days of the campaign (while trying to convince Chicagoans he was not some rural ‘gun nut’) it was at that moment that he realized just why so many urban residents wanted handgun restrictions and were willing to put aside the desires of hunters and the theoretical notion of the Second Amendment to the Constitution (which guarantees the American people the right to arm themselves so they can be in a militia).

Perhaps the key is to drag every rural legislator into the Stroger Hospital emergency room to give them a sense of the chaos that can be created by firearms in the city.

Maybe then, people like Bost would start seeing that there are commonalities in Illinois’ regions, despite the roughly 300 mile difference that exists between Chicago and his hometown.

Admittedly, Bost is from the region that literally is closer to Memphis than either Chicago or St. Louis – the two cities that 95 percent of Illinoisans identify with. That could be just too large a social gap to bridge.

But there are political people who live on the fringes of the Chicago area who act as though they wish they could put space between themselves and the city. They are the ones who need to have a little arm-twisting.

Ultimately, it will have to come down to Chicago’s political muscle being used to let all Illinoisans know just how much of an economic and social stake they have in an improved Chicago – one that is safe and secure both in reality and in perception.

The scary thing is that too many legislators would see this as an excuse to extort Chicago for some sort of local project. No matter what they might want to think, rural legislators aren’t any more ethical than their urban counterparts. Just think back to how many rural lawmakers were upset that they didn’t get more for their support of a Chicago Transit Authority emergency funding measure that finally got approval early this year.

Short of an extra effort by Chicago, there doesn’t seem to be any sense that the two sides will come together any time soon. In the words of state Rep. John Bradley, a Democrat from Marion, “we’re always going to have philosophical differences about the issues involving gun ownership in the state.”

-30-

(Originally published at http://www.ChicagoArgus.blogspot.com/)

4 comments:

Common Sense,  7:50 AM  

Chicago already has a handgun ban. Chicago already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Washington DC has some of the strictest gun laws in the country with the commensurate highest gun crime and murder rates.
Handguns except with some exceptions like alderman, police officers, some security guards, and a hand full or grandfathered in people from decades ago–Nobody can own a handgun in the city of Chicago not even in their own home for personal protection.

An Army Reservist in Chicago,trained and certified in weapons, cannot own a military weapon in Chicago even for target practice.
It is illegal. It can be a felony under certain circumstances.

Yes, guns are a problem. But yes, there is a legitimate and not dangerous according to statistics hunting and outdoors culture in many parts of the United States and not just rural parts. When I was in the Boy Scouts I shot 22 caliber and shotguns and nobody ever died and it was a skill, taught discipline and was useful in Army Basic training. Some Chicago Public High Schools used to have firing ranges with zero fatalities, no accidents, no shootings, no killings, no suicides. To teach respect for a weapon, safety, and markmensship is good. Too many kids who get illegal (Read: already illegal) weapons do not know safety or how to properly use them and have no respect because of our culture both the culture of violence and lack of respect for life and the complete ban culture which makes weapons even more attractive.

What about an old lady who uses a weapon for personal security (like cases you have heard on the news about an old lady shooting a robber and the State’s Attorney could charge her) or one of these Arab or Korean(or any ethnic group) store owners who has a weapon when he takes the cash at night to make a night bank deposit?
These are criminals?

There is a different culture in Southern Illinois and rural areas.
It does have less murders and crime. (although that is changing with Crystal myth and the hip-hop rap culture of stupidity gripping now maybe 2 generations even white kids in rural areas) They are getting more gangs because of a bad urban influence.

There are hunting accidents. There are idiots who hunt drunk. There are the tragedies like in Wisconsin and Minnesota where Hmongs and Whites have killed each other although rare at least 2 high profile incidents. There are accidents where tragically kids get guns. But there is also millions maybe tens of millions or hundreds of millions over time that hunt, fish, outdoors, target shoot, skeet, shotgun, different animal hunting, bow hunting, military, former military, gun collectors etc. These are good law abiding citizens.

Gun laws will not stop the horrible tragedy of the young man who got hit with a baseball bat and was killed who was a good boy and a good boxer. I don’t want to sound cliche about banning baseball bats. Many of these other high profile shootings would of not been stopped by the one gun a month law or any other gun laws as they were not (in some cases) automatic weapons and were not bought legally. These already are illegally bought or stolen guns.
These weapons are already out on the streets. The march by Jesse Jackson and Fr. Pleger dealt with a manufacturer of weapons that does not sell to civilians, certainly it would be nice to turn our AK-47s into plowshares but the problem is that law enforcement and military need them against gangs, terrorists, other countries etc. It is a naive approach that is not really dealing with the problem.

Chicago Democrats really crack me up as they always have exceptions and prove that they are not only hypocrites but that guns do work to deter crime. Alderman carry weapons. All of the Daley family, kids, inlaws, even the grandmother while alive had ARMED police officer bodyguards. Alderman Ed Burke has armed police officer bodyguards and he himself carries a weapon. Alderman Tillman carried a weapon. Governor Blagojevich has State Police officers who carry weapons.
It is the 11th ward precinct captains who illegally carry weapons, and city workers, and 19th ward sherriffs who legally carry but abuse it in shooting innocents. Why can’t law abiding citizens who are trained use a weapon?

Switzerland has the highest rate of weapons per capita and mandates automatic weapons to be carried and in the homes of their milita.
Go to the 41st ward (one of the safest, cleanest, and least crime, gun violence, and murders) in the city of Chicago–and it has high rates of gun ownership albeit with Chicago Police officers (some good, most good but also some bad), their families, wives, kids–the point being that number of weapons and access to weapons does not mean high crime. A pure correlation even if you disagree with causation.

Lastly, not just the U of C studies, the Lott studies, the Dan Polsby studies at Northwestern but the FBI statistics state that when states (now many of them) have had concealed carry that crime went down. This makes logical sense. But even if you thought it was for homogeneous, low populated, rural states like Montana and Wyoming–what about multi-cultural, with large low income communities, urban areas like Florida and Texas.
There are not many incidents of killings of those with Concealed Carry licenses. Crime has gone down in states that have Concealed Carry.

Common Sense gun ownership, view of rights, gun training and safety, respect–these would help more.

Crime is complicated and nuanced–the ever present call for more gun control by Daley and Arne Duncan insult our intelligence and do nothing to really do nothing to fight crime. Arne Duncan and the CPS exploit kids and use a political agenda that does not stop killings. Daley has already spent tens of millions of taxpayers dollars losing in court and may now be affected by upcoming Supreme Court battles on the 2nd Amendment.

steve schnorf 9:27 AM  

Legislative representation is proportional, so the idea of a small minority of the population holding the city hostage is preposterous.

Watson is serving in the armed forces in Iraq, for Christ's sake. You didn't think that little tidbit was significant?

You also fail to note that several suburban Republicans voted for the bill.

Anonymous,  10:01 AM  

It's the USE of the gun that is criminal, not the sale/purchase transaction. Someone who will use a gun in violation of the law to hurt another person won't give a damn whether he/she got the gun legally.

Do you think downstate legislators are so stupid that they don't know the damage a gunshot can do to a human body? We have to have field trips to the city hospital? Give me a break.

It is your city with the problem -- and an outright ban didn't solve the problem. Don't punish the rural downstaters who don't have the same problems your city has. Enforce the laws already on the books. We have more laws on the books about guns than most states -- yet your city continues to have a murder problem.

Common Sense commenter makes some very good points. This issue is like abortion -- nobody listens to the other side, everbody's mind is made up.

Anonymous,  3:07 PM  

"the theoretical notion of the Second Amendment to the Constitution (which guarantees the American people the right to arm themselves so they can be in a militia)."

We'll see if that is what the Supremes think the 2nd Amendment says. My bet is they guartantee an individual right to own a firearm, including handguns. Come October, we will get a landmark ruling from the US Supreme Court and it will be a great day for the country.

Chicago's ban will fall shortly thereater. There is no reason to deny a lawful citizen from owning a weapon when thousands of criminals run rampant throughout the streets. Shame on Daley!!

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