Rorschach of Red Ink asked, in a friendly way, whether Illinois "slaves" are allowed to own things that go boom.
Well, the answer is yes, but there are a lot of qualifiers before we get to the yes. Illinois gun laws are so complicated that most residents of Illinois don't know how they work--and even gun owners and police officers have been known to get a sort of vacant stare at times. Maybe some explanation is in order for those of you who don't live in Illinois. In fact, Sitemeter says I've already gotten visits from Hong Kong, Australia, Sweden and Germany, so it might be interesting to see how different the regions and states of the U.S. can be. I'm sure some of our foreign friends think of the U.S.A. as the place where cowboys roam free and guns litter the sidewalks, but the difference between places like Vermont or Texas and places like Illinois or New Jersey can be staggering. The stuff I'm going to describe really only applies to Illinois.
The single most important fact of life for Illinois gun owners to keep in mind is that Chicago does in fact control the state. Chicago residents are roughly two-thirds of Illinois' population, and that doesn't count the so-called "Collar Counties" around Chicago, which tend to share the same politics even though they are nominally Republican while Chicago is nominally Democrat. In other words, if 50% of Chicago voters vote Yes on Prop Z, and 90% of the rest of the state vote No, Prop Z passes by a healthy margin. None of what I'm about to describe will EVER change unless Chicago is changed.
This situation arose because Illinois is by and large a rural state of small towns and farms, with the attitudes toward guns that you'd expect rural Americans to have. I live in the rural part of the state, which doesn't tell you much because geographically, that's almost the whole place. The catch is that Cook County, the county in which the city of Chicago is located, contains such a dense population that they outnumber the rest of us roughly two to one. This means there are, politically, two Illinois states. In the urban Illinois, both Democrats and Republicans are what most people today call "liberals." In the rural Illinois, both Democrats and Republicans are what most people today call "conservatives," at least in the United States. My state legislator is a Democrat who is staunchly pro-gun. He's a loyal Democrat with an important leadership position in the state government, but he's from a rural district and he wouldn't have been elected in either party by trying to ban guns.
This dichotomy goes even further. Within the same political party, urban and "downstate" officials are rivals with different goals, and sometimes they truly hate each other. Our Governor, Rod Blagojevich, was more or less openly placed as the Democratic party's candidate by his father-in-law, a powerful member of the Chicago City Council. As such, he's seen as representing Chicago interests. He has only increased the perception by refusing to move into the Governor's Mansion in Springfield (no, Chicago is NOT the capital of Illinois) and instead commuting by airplane a few times per week. The President of the Senate, Emil Jones, doesn't think much of the Good Hair Governor. He does, however, seem to prefer him to the Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, and the Attorney General, Lisa Madigan (Yes, the Attorney General of Illinois is the daughter of the Speaker of the House. No kidding.) The Madigans, for their part, despise both Blagojevich and Jones.
Now, the interesting part is that all these people are leaders in the same party. They don't have to hate the Republicans, because the Republicans in Illinois can't win for losing in the past 5-10 years and they know it.
What does this mean for gun owners? It means you can't just watch the legislature. The Mayor of Chicago has more power in this state than the Governor in some ways, and certainly far more than all but a few of the state legislators in either house. Most proposed gun control comes from Chicago City Hall, and Chicago is the reason we don't have concealed carry in this state. More on that later.
Now, pay close attention, because you'll see this material again:
The only way Illinois gun owners will ever make significant progress and get back onto the offensive is to take the fight to Chicago and win. It's that simple. We need a significant number of Chicago voters on our side and willing to vote that way. We like to badmouth Chicago, and that's fine as far as it goes, but we could win every voter downstate and still lose in a landslide without Chicago. The established gun rights organizations are just beginning to wake up to this reality.
Next time: We'll look at the FOID card and some other restrictions on gun owners, unless someone asks a question I find more interesting in the meantime.