Monday, June 11, 2007

Illinois Gun Law Primer, Part I

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.

Further reading:

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.


Larry said...

And then you have to contend with absolutists shooting us all in the foot because incremental gains aren't good enough. If you're not as extreme as they are, you're a commie sympathizer, apparently.

Matt G said...


Part of what you're saying is that gun-owners must move to Chi-Town, and vote.


Don said...

Well, sort of, but even that wouldn't have much effect statewide. There aren't enough voters "downstate" to change the direction of Chicago on any issue most Chicago voters agree on.

What has GOT to happen is that we need some of those Chicago voters. We don't have to get them all, but we have to be changing minds in Chicago. There was a group for a few years called Concealed Carry, Inc. It was led by a man named John Birch (no relation to the John Birchers, that's just his given name.)

John is extreme and loves the camera. He gave away handguns to Chicago residents. He publicly declared that FFL's should stop selling to black people because Jesse Jackson didn't want black people to have guns. He was always good for a quote the news people found "outrageous."

John had a lot of good ideas and some bad ones, but the biggest thing he did was to set up shop in his home in the suburbs and declare war on Chicago. Most CCI events took place in Chicago proper. Most of their message and propaganda was aimed at Chicago residents. When the ISRA didn't care about Chicago PD railroading a young black man for the crime of being a young black man with a FOID card and a legally transported pistol, John and CCI organized the rest of us to support him. That young man was saved by the lawyer we provided at John's direction (even though we ticked off the judge.)

What's needed is a way to take the energy and work that goes into Guns Save Life (Champaign County Rifle Association) and put it into a campaign for Chicago. But as you say, gun owners don't want to live in Chicago, and activists even less so.

Jonathan said...

Agreed, Don.

badmouthing Chicago does nothing positive. We need Chicago. At the very least, we need them financially.

Chicago dwellers and the rest of us south of I80 have different views and needs regarding firearms. The tricky part is finding some compromise between those two cultures.

Don said...

Excellent. I'm putting you in charge of turning Chicago around. It's a big job, but I know you can do it. Let us know when you're done, OK?

Jonathan said...

I'm putting you in charge of turning Chicago around.

in the words of tWit: I'm a uniter, not a divider-uper-er.

Kimberly said...

I live in Texas, and can not imagine living in a state where concealed handguns are not allowed. That is just me. Anyway, I found your site through Ambulance driver, keep up the good work.

Rorschach said...

As I stated in a comment to your other post, the way to break the logjam is NOT through legislation. Break it through the judiciary. The Dems have beaten us conservatives over the head with the Judiciary for ages, now it is payback time and payback can be a bitch =D.

Gather people who have been denied FIOD's for no reason and SUE in Federal court. Even if you loose at the district level and even the circuit level. The Supremes are poised to kill US v Miller.

BobG said...

Personally, I find the whole idea of a FOID just to own a firearm repugnant; at least I don't need a card of any kind unless I want to carry a concealed firearm.

Don said...

Well, it is, but they passed it in 1968 and I wasn't born for another ten years, so I wasn't given a lot of choice. I could:

1. Never own or handle guns or ammunition.

2. Be a felon.

3. Grit my teeth and send in my money.

JR said...

Reply to bobg-
the fact that any of us, US Citizens, have to do anything outside of paying for a gun is freakin' asinine. Rorschach is on to the courts, take them to court. Gun grabbing bastarts!! The 2nd Amendment is a "civil right", forcing registration of any sort is unconstitutional.