Wednesday, March 9, 2011

There's Still Time to Jump on the Right-to-Carry Bandwagon in Illinois

. . . . but maybe not, you know, a LOT of time. Consider the following:
  • Yesterday, HB0148, the Family and Personal Protection Act, passed out of the Illinois House Agriculture and Conservation Committee onto the floor. This was expected; that's why pro-gun bills go to the A&C and anti-gun bills go to Judicial, to ensure that they all have a fair chance to make it to the floor. Usually.
  • There were some surprises, though. The biggest one, which I saw in only one mainstream media report (and which I've now lost, somehow) is that Illinois law enforcement organizations are now overwhelmingly in favor of right-to-carry:
  • Several papers reported that two sheriffs testified in favor of the bill; almost no one mentioned that the Illinois Sheriffs Association went on record in favor, or that the sheriffs who testified noted that the vote at their meeting was nearly unanimous, with only Chicago's Cook County Sheriff voting no.
  • Almost no one mentioned that Chief Eric Smith (of Sherman, IL) was in attendance not just for himself but to represent the Illinois Chiefs of Police. That's right, even the politically-appointed chiefs of police across Illinois voted this week to endorse HB0148.
  • Although the Chicago Police Department is, of course, officially opposed, their rank-and-file supports HB0148 so much that the Chicago Police Sergeants' Association went on record in favor. This is a HUGE step in Illinois.
Nor are those the only hopeful signs. As you may have seen in this space before, Illinois actually has fairly pro-gun majorities in both its state House and Senate. The only reason they haven't passed right-to-carry legislation in the past few years has been that the legislative leaders have chosen to use parliamentary maneuvers to prevent floor votes in the Senate and to require supermajority votes in the House. This, combined with the certainty that all the Governors involved would veto any RTC bill, has kept any undecided legislators from seeing a reason to stick their necks out and be among the last few votes to create a supermajority or override a veto.

Yesterday, though, Andy Brownfield at the Springfield State Journal-Register asked Governor Quinn's spokeswoman whether he would follow through with his promise of a veto, and she would say only that the Governor would "give a concealed-carry bill the same consideration he gives any other bill." That's no promise, certainly, but it does have a certain open-door quality about it. It would have been easy to say, "Yes, the Governor promised the people of Illinois to veto this dangerous legislation and he will." But they didn't. Does that mean Quinn is open to a deal? Your guess is as good as mine, but it clearly doesn't say that his mind is made up.

At the risk of repeating myself, I'm seeing a lot of commentary that Quinn would "never" do this and Cullerton and Madigan would "never" do that. These people are ignoring the changing times. Illinois downstate Democrats (and some upstate, too) come from conservative districts that only vote Democrat because they're full of farmers and union workers. It's an uneasy relationship at the best of times because of their other relationship--the one with "those Chicago Democrats." Now Governor Quinn has spent a huge amount of their political capital, and his, on borrowing billions of dollars and raising taxes by about 66%. Those downstate Democrats from conservative districts had to vote for those things in order to get them through, and they expect payback. They expect Quinn and the leaders to give them some kind of red meat issue they can trumpet back in the district, and right-to-carry is perfectly suited. To all that, you can add that IGOLD is perfectly timed this year, bringing thousands of gun owners to the capital (and the capitol) tomorrow to demand right-to-carry. That either gives politicians a push to do the right thing or cover to do what they promised not to do, depending on your point of view.

This will come down to the wire, and even the insiders will not be sure of the outcome until it's over. That's not much of a prediction, but it is mine and I expect it to come true.

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