"Out of hundreds of eligible organizations, the ISRA is the only group to have received this award twice. The ISRA was first recognized as Citizens Committee for the Right To Keep and Bear Arms Affiliate of the Year in 1999. This year's award was presented to ISRA President Don Moran and ISRA Executive Director Richard Pearson by CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb during the Gun Rights Policy Conference held this past weekend in Phoenix, AZ."Years ago, when I first got involved in the concealed carry battle here in Illinois, I took a look around to see the lay of the land. Who were the players? How was it going so far? What was the strategy of each side, and where was it working? What I saw was not encouraging. The "other side," such as it was, was disorganized and often foolish, but they had the advantage of inertia. They didn't really have to convince most people that the "bear arms" part of "keep and bear arms" was outmoded and best ignored; most people in Illinois didn't even realize that they'd ever visited a state where law-abiding citizens carried firearms for their own defense. They were certain that decent people had never done such a thing in Illinois. If they gave it a little thought, they often decided that it wouldn't be so bad if, say, a woman who'd been threatened by her abusive ex-husband were allowed to carry her gun with her, but generally the leapt from there to the assumption that there was some sort of license such a person could get by showing need, perhaps from a judge or something. That isn't true in Illinois, but the thought satisfied most people, in my experience, and they were loath to give it up.
My side, on the other hand, had an uphill battle. It wasn't rolling the boulder up the hill that was stopping us so much as budging the damn thing out of its rut to get it moving in the first place. And "our" solution to the problem seemed to involve fighting amongst ourselves to determine the strongest group (we'd know which one was strongest because it would be the only one that survived all the infighting) and then wishing what was left of that biggest dog the best of luck in taking on not only anti-gun activists, but a fiercely anti-gun Democrat political machine in Chicago, a pragmatically anti-gun Republican political machine in the state government, and of course our old friends inertia, apathy and general ignorance. This did not strike me as a wise course, but I still got sucked into it. In those days there were, I think, about the same number of pro-gun organizations in Illinois, but some have gone by the wayside and some have sprung up in the meantime. Maybe I'll profile each in a post of its own soon; that's better than having to think of a topic.
In those days, the ISRA was the bogeyman for many Illinois groups. The national NRA groups wanted nothing to do with Illinois, and the ISRA was more or less on its own. The perception, fair or not, was that the ISRA was more a shooting club for ISRA members around Chatsworth, IL with a pretty good record of defensive lobbying--you might say many of us thought the ISRA was bitterly clinging to its guns, but not going out on the offense. Now, having gone out on the offense a little bit myself, I've begun to realize the difference between criticizing others for their lack of initiative and taking the initiative yourself. But, at the time, it was a widespread perception. Probably still is, actually, for a lot of people, but I believe those people are missing out.
Well, we've come a long way since those days. The ISRA today is reaching out to bloggers (some of you might have gotten here from my new ISRA link; it accounts for about 5% of my traffic lately, which is pretty productive) and to internet forums like Illinois Carry. They're working closely with Guns Save Life and these new internet resources, and it's starting to show. We still haven't budged that boulder out of its rut, but it's starting to feel like more people are pushing on the rock instead of pushing their personal rivals out of the way. The ISRA deserves a lot of credit for that turnaround, and this week the CCRKBA gave them an award. I hereby bestow the Armed School Teacher's Seal of Approval, which I'm sure will have everyone sighing a big sigh of relief at ISRA Headquarters, because, really, what's the point of an award from the CCRKBA if you don't get my approval?
Actually, they got my approval months ago, when I bought memberships for my entire family. I don't agree with the ISRA leadership every time, but everyone in my house is an ISRA member, so take that for what it's worth.