Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Linky: If the Cook County State's Attorney Pokes Her Head Out Today, Spring Is On the Way

More on today's anti-gun Chicago press conference from John Boch at The Truth About Guns.

Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez Press Conference: A Defining Moment?

All the major control organizations gun are gathering tomorrow (Tuesday) in Illinois. They’ll meet-up with gun violence victims and local gun control advocates like Father ”Snuffy” Pfleger—who earned his nickname by calling for the “snuffing out” of the owner of a Chicago-area gun shop. They’ll head over to the office of Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez. The subsequent press conference will have one collective goal: to prevent Land of Lincoln legislators from enacting a law that would give citizens the right to carry a concealed firearm . . . . The Violence Policy Center, The Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence, the Mayors Against Illegal Guns—the entire gun control movement know that this could well be do-or-die for their cause. Alvarez’s press conference reveals their desperate rush into the breach, hoping to keep concealed carry from passing one more time. At least until the next time . . . .
Interestingly, the time and place of the conference were finally released Monday, at least to invitees:
We have a confirmed location for the Press Conference against HB 148 which would allow the concealed carrying of handguns. The Violence Policy Center will be releasing National data regarding crimes committed by Concealed Carry Permit
holders and we will be calling for lawmakers to oppose this legislation.

The press conference is scheduled for Tuesday, March 28th at 10:00 AM at the Blue Room of the James R. Thomspon Center, 100 W. Randolph.

Please let me know if you are able to attend this important press conference.
Perhaps more interestingly, members of Illinois Carry who contacted Alvarez's office were told that SA Alvarez is not scheduled to appear at any press events today at all. Of course, there was no public information on the press conference itself at all until Monday morning, so we'll all have to wait and see how accurate that is; but it's always possible that Alvarez never intended to appear. It's also entirely possible that either she or the organizers decided that it wasn't ideal for either to have her take a leading role, since she's so far out of the mainstream. None of the groups involved, with the possible exception of the Violence Policy Center, ever willingly admit that they do or have work to "ban guns," after all, and SA Alvarez has not always been as indirect as that:

(As we all marvel at SA Alvarez's honesty in the moment, we should all take a moment to thank Kurt Hofmann, St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner, for uploading that video to Youtube and ensuring that we can always remind people of exactly what we're facing.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Who is Hiram Grau and why does he make me nervous?

First things first: Hiram Grau has just been appointed to be the Director of the Illinois State Police.

Now, why would that make me nervous?

Well, the Illinois State Police (ISP) have an uneven history with Illinois gun owners. My memories of the ISP only go back to the days when Terry Gainer was the Director, and Gainer's signature was on the deceptive little countertop signs that were mailed to my dad's gun shop. These were supposed to be set out on the counters to warn customers that their firearms had to be transported in locked cases in inaccessible compartments (such as the trunk of a car) but with the ammunition transported in a separate compartment of the car. That was folk wisdom for years, but it wasn't the law even back then as far as I've been able to tell. In addition, the ISP has traditionally opposed all gun-rights legislation and favored most gun control in the legislature, and their page of advice to women on "What To Do If You Are Confronted" is legendary for such great advice as "It may sound disgusting, but putting your fingers into you throat and making yourself vomit usually gets results (This method is not often used except as a last resort)" and "there is documentation of assailants that left a would-be-victim alone after she told him that she was pregnant and it would kill her baby. (Some case were women that were too old to even have a baby.)"

Over three years ago, I wrote here about my surprise that the ISP hadn't taken the page down or altered it after a year of being mocked by activists with tongue depressors . . . .

Then, over a year later, I posted an open letter to the ISP at the Chicago Gun Rights Examiner, explaining my continued surprise that the ISP still had not taken action to remove the page . . .

Three months after that, the ISP responded with promises of a comprehensive review of the entire ISP website . . . .

That was well over a year ago, and as of today, the offensive page of dangerous advice is still there.

There have been hopeful signs, though. Under the much-mocked young Director Jonathon Monken, the ISP dedicated more manpower to processing FOID applications and began to cut down its backlog. Much more promising, the ISP went from persistent hostility toward gun rights to standing neutral on the latest shall-issue right-to-carry bill . . . and combined with the Illinois Sheriffs Association, Illinois Chiefs of Police and Chicago PD Sargeants Association testifying in favor, that's a big boost.

Now, though, Mr. Grau's administration is poised to begin. Grau is an unknown quantity to me, but he's been in charge of investigations for Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez for years, and I hope he doesn't share her hopes for radical gun bans. Time will tell. In the meantime, the rumors that Grau will be expected to make ISP "outside investigations" of law enforcement in Cook County go the way Alvarez wants them to go--starting with the current case in which one of Mayor Daley's nephews hit another young man who later died of the injuries he sustained in falling to the ground, and was later declared innocent by Chicago PD--are all over the Second City Cop blog. And as one particularly cheerful and optimistic Chicago cop put it:
"Apologies to our brothers and sisters at ISP. As you were with Gainer, you again have been saddled with CPD refuse . . . Grau is a Democratic Party clout baby, plain and simple."
Well, thanks. But I'm still hoping Mr. Grau will show me something to gladden my heart.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Anti-gunners getting desperate in Illinois? Rumors and facts. . .

Rumor has it that the national anti-gun groups are making desperate phone calls behind the scenes and finding their usual allies in the Illinois state capitol in a state of confusion. One insider says "nobody is talking to each other." One big reason for the confusion is probably this year's campaign to pass HB0148/SB0082, shall-issue right-to-carry bills titled the "Family and Personal Protection Act." The bills on the IL General Assembly website are not the final versions, by the way, so be warned if you're going there to read up.

Anyway, we've been over my optimism about this before, so suffice it to say that I honestly think this may be the year Illinois gets shall-issue right-to-carry. Groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Ownership apparently agree, because the day after thousands of gun owners flooded the state capitol for IGOLD, they hired Chris Carr from a Blagojevich-connected Chicago firm to lobby in Illinois. Obviously, none of that is rumor; it's public record. The question is, what do they think their lobbyist can say to Governor Quinn, Speaker Madigan or President Cullerton that will counteract the facts on the ground?

Yesterday, The Truth About Guns posted up a video of Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez in the infamous Chicago television appearance in which she told the host: "I believe there should be a law that says no one should have guns." That was Robert Farago's response to another sign of desperation: the rumor is that the Illinois Council Against Handgun Existence and other Illinois groups went looking for a politician willing to stand in front of the microphones for them at a major press conference early this week (Tuesday morning?) and Ms. Alvarez was the best they could find. Given the fact that every one of these groups denies that they want to ban guns, the fact that they feel obliged to go with Alvarez as their point-person on this would seem to imply that they couldn't get, for instance, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, or Governor Pat Quinn to be the face of resistance to right-to-carry in Illinois.

What do you suppose we should read into that?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sigh. Illinois legislature, convicted felon, you know the drill.

So it turns out Illinois State Rep. Robert Rita (veteran of five terms in the Illinois legislature) was convicted of a felony in Nevada not all that long before he ran for the General Assembly, and won . . . and won . . . and won . . . and won . . . and won.

Yes, smartasses, that's against the law in Illinois.

Yes, even in Cook County!

We just don't check.

Because if you can't trust a politician, who can you trust?

Monday, March 14, 2011

QOTD: IGOLD Arithmetic

"I already posted about a TV person in the hall with all of us there in our GOLDEN finest. With a straight face she said that our count was "OVER ONE HUNDRED FIFTY people in attendance".

--"Badwater Bill" at www.illinoiscarry.com

Media accounts of numbers vary widely, but that's . . . . hmmm.

When this picture was taken, from the railroad viaduct next to 3rd St., the back end of the crowd still hadn't turned the corner from 7th St. four blocks back. Maybe I'm too generous, but it's enough to make me wonder whether she genuinely flubbed it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


SecondCityCop got a letter from a reader who was in Springfield to watch HB0148 pass out of the House committee on Tuesday:
First, the city brought the same tired old group: the mayor's aide, [...], a tired old doctor, a bishop and the CPD supe. Imagine, their surprise when the people who were for concealed carry brought in the reps from the Chicago police sergeant's organization AND the Chicago police chiefs association AND the Illinois sheriff's organization and some more guys like that. I hear that the mayor's office called the chief's org after the vote and threatened to withdraw from the assn because the chief spoke on their side!
There's more and it's excellent, but you'll have to click the link if you want to read the whole thing.

QOTD: Doppelganger!

I have heard whisperings and rumors of my doppelganger in central Illinois for years, but I have never met him. Perhaps that is for the best; who can predict what dire consequences might be waiting if we ever met face-to-face, or heaven forfend, shook hands? I can't be the only one who saw TimeCop and decided that, for the safety of the universe, if I ever see someone who looks exactly like me, I will run away.

In any case, they say everyone has a twin out there somewhere, and mine is apparently still making coffee. I first began to hear rumors of his existence when I worked in a small local town called Chatham; there was a Starbucks there at the time, and people began to ask me whether I was picking up extra shifts and whether I would have gotten in trouble for waving back at them in the morning. One day, the local newspaper ran a photo from that Starbucks location, and I had to admit it was a pretty good likeness. Eventually, I left Chatham, and Starbucks closed that location down, and I forgot all about the whole thing until Thursday.

I was standing next to the IGOLD parade chatting with my highly-pregnant little sister, who was working in a bank branch along the route when we passed by. As we finished our conversation, I noticed a pretty young lady who was not moving along with the parade but watching us, and when I left, she followed. I've learned over the years that a lot of people who look hesitant or seem to be following someone at these events are trying to figure out how to approach and ask a question without feeling silly, so I stopped and introduced myself. She'd seen us go by and called her husband; he supports right-to-carry, but is traveling in Idaho this week, and he had asked her to sign our petition for him.

Unfortunately, we weren't circulating a petition that day, and she didn't have time to go into the Capitol, but I did find an extra registration packet so that she could fill out and mail the comment cards to their legislators and sign him up for IllinoisCarry.com. I thanked her for all the trouble she'd gone to, she thanked me for putting on IGOLD*, and we were ready to part ways when she blurted out:
"I just want you to know, this means you are officially my favorite barista!"
Is "barista" even a masculine noun? It sounds vaguely latin and firmly feminine to me, but I know Starbucks likes to make new words sometimes when they can't remember the old ones, the way I buy new wire strippers every once in awhile rather than try to find the old ones. Anyway, wherever you are out there, my handsome coffee-brewing friend, here's to you.

*"Well," he replied modestly, "others helped."

Friday, March 11, 2011

IGOLD 2011: A winner is you!

So, IGOLD 2011 has come and gone, and it's the top story on the front page of the Springfield State Journal-Register, and apparently they're passing out live TV news interviews to fat gun nuts in yellow hoodies now . . . . so that's new.

The paper is estimating that there were only about 1000-1500 in attendance; I would personally estimate 3000-5000 . . . . 3500-4500 if someone wanted more precision. I thought the numbers were close to last year's turnout, which I estimated at around 4000-4500. I am absolutely no kind of expert on this stuff, though, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt (just a little one, though; I mean, it's not as if I'm not awfully smart or anything.) Also in attendance at IGOLD were a couple of less-desirable elements. One was an older gentleman who was passing out some kind of, as one organizer put it, "Jim Crow literature." He was tossed out of the convention center without putting up much of a protest; must have known he had limited time to do such a thing. Hey, this is not Wisconsin, and we don't owe you a place to peddle your crazy.

Insiders at the capitol are telling each other that the current right-to-carry bill, HB0148/SB82, is nearly inevitable. Of course, this is Illinois politics, where things can get weird and the insiders are sometimes as surprised as everyone else, so I'll believe it when I see it. Still, the logic of the situation does have a certain persuasive force. Senate President Cullerton really does have a lot of pressure coming from downstate Democrats, and he's starting to see more from suburban and even some Chicago districts, too. On the other hand, he has to know that the anti-gun contingent of Chicago legislators may not go completely quietly. Very likely, President Cullerton is wondering whether he can wait for Speaker Madigan's House to pass HB0148 and send it to the Senate, at which point he would have more cover to look for a solution. The big flaw in that plan (well, from my point of view, maybe not from his) is that Speaker Madigan might be waiting for Cullerton to make the first move, for similar reasons. I have this terrible vision of the two of them sitting across a table, each waiting for the other to make the first move, like two old men at the coffee shop sitting with the check between them, each trying his best to outlast the other . . . . casually.

However, listening to rank-and-file legislators talk to each other yesterday was a revelation. The buzz in the capitol hallways was entirely about right-to-carry, which I've never seen at IGOLD before. I don't mean legislators talking to IGOLD participants--that always sounds like someone trying to sell you your own ideas--but the little bits and bites of conversation you pick up between two staffers in an elevator, or a couple of lobbyists on the steps. These people are all talking amongst themselves about right-to-carry and the mood is infectiously optimistic.

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.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Requests and Dedications: Is it OK for the state police to give the AP a list of all legal gun owners in Illinois?

If you read Roberta X (and if you don't, you should) then you've already seen several of my words on the latest anti-gun hijinks in Illinois (Roberta took them right out of my mouth.)

I've still got a few left that she didn't think of, though, and Keith asked in comments, "Are you going to address the FOID thing?" so I suppose I have an excuse.

First, consider the problem. Essentially, the Attorney General of Illinois, Lisa Madigan, has issued a letter to the Illinois State Police directing them to release a list of the names (but not home addresses) of everyone who holds a FOID card in Illinois. The FOID card is not a carry permit, but a license to possess, own, or transfer a firearm or ammunition. Outside narrow exceptions, an Illinois citizen needs a FOID card just to possess a single round of loaded ammunition. The ISP is fighting this order by asking for an official opinion from the AG and seems ready to take the issue to court. Several bills currently in the legislature, including HB 0007, would prohibit the release of such a list in the future. In practical terms, this doesn't affect me personally, because I'm out and proud and on all the troublemaker lists you can be on in this state. I can easily imagine a lot of others, especially the two-thirds of the population who live in Chicagoland, worrying about their jobs and their relatively harassment-free lives going away in some situations. Some of my other friends who try to "fly under the radar" as gun owners in their neighborhoods to avoid taking chances with thieves are now imagining their names in the newspapers as "gun owners." Chances are, though, that HB 0007 is going to would pass with a large majority after the firestorm they've created here, if it hadn't mysteriously been bottled up in a committee. Few people seem to realize that the Illinois Legislature is dominated by votes ranging from pro-gun to moderate on guns. Year after year, the other side introduces packages of anti-gun bills which go down to defeat, and most pro-gun bills short of repealing the FOID or creating right-to-carry pass.

If all that's true (and I think it still surprises even a lot of Illinois gun-rights activists to look at the legislature that way) then why doesn't right-to-carry pass? The answer is that Illinois has nearly all-powerful legislative leaders. Mike Madigan rules the House with an iron fist, and John Cullerton inherited a near-dictatorship in the Senate from Emil Jones. Right-to-carry would pass the Illinois House and Senate in a heartbeat without that power; Cullerton, like Jones before him, bottles up RTC bills in unfriendly committees and prevents floor votes entirely. Mike Madigan simply rules that RTC would affect home rule (another quirk of Illinois is that we have thousands of home-rule cities; it's not just Chicago) and therefore require SUPER majorities. In other words, everyone including Madigan knows, whether they acknowledge it or not, that there are clear pro-gun majorities in both houses of the Illinois legislature. Illinois readers will probably recall that the Attorney General mentioned above is Lisa Madigan, the daughter of the aforementioned Mike Madigan.

Now we consider one more question: why now? Why did Lisa Madigan decide that now is the time to make a push to join the ranks of the newspapers and state governments that have been pilloried over the years for publishing lists of CCW holders nationwide? I tend to agree with Thirdpower at Days of Our Trailers: this is a case of "Wagging the Madigan." The idea here is almost certainly to create a new controversy over gun control, one where the other side has at least some of the initiative. That's necessary because shall-issue right-to-carry legislation is gaining ground every day; Madigan's super-majority strategy could be overwhelmed this year by simply meeting his requirement, and some sources have been reporting rumors that Cullerton and even Governor Quinn have been feeling a lot of pressure to move. RTC is clearly coming in Illinois, so their three choices are to jump on the bandwagon, get run over by the bandwagon, or set the old warehouse district on fire and hope everybody has to jump off the bandwagon to pass buckets. It seems they chose the third. The problem for them is that this is an obnoxious and dangerous strategy that's already pissing off all the wrong people. They may be able to do some harm with it to a lot of innocent folks who didn't volunteer to be game pieces, but I don't believe they themselves have that much to gain. RTC is not going away, if that's what they were hoping. It's a genuine grassroots movement with no rent-a-crowds or astroturf involved . . . . just distracting the public and waiting for the furor to die down is not going to work. I attended the funeral a couple of months ago of a man who fought like a lion for RTC; we called him "Ol' Coach," but his real name was Gene Martin. Gene's fear was that he wouldn't live to see RTC pass, and his frustration came out in angry words from time to time. He was right, as it turns out, but if anyone thinks his friends will move on to something else if they wave a few distractions around, they've misjudged.

Tomorrow, at 2 p.m., there will be a committee hearing on shall-issue right-to-carry (The Family and Personal Protection Act, HB0148) at the Illinois state capitol. The bill will pass out of the committee; the important thing tomorrow will be the testimony and the press coverage. I've already been contacted by local TV news about this, so I know at least some are paying attention. Will they drop that attention to rush off and get quotes from Lisa Madigan about her Wag-the-Madigan scheme? I doubt it.

Then, on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. in the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, the doors will open for IGOLD. Thousands of gun owners will take the day off work and pay their way to the capital to spend the day marching, demonstrating, and meeting with their legislators. We will rally in the Convention Center, and we will march across town (the streets are closed by the Springfield Police.) We will meet and rally again in front of the capitol . . . . but we will also pour into the capitol by the thousands and meet individually with our representatives.

The problem, if you're Lisa Madigan or Mike Madigan or John Cullerton or Pat Quinn, is how to create a big enough distraction to stop a bandwagon that big. Ignoring the problem for the past few years has not made it go away. These people are hearing footsteps; shall-issue right-to-carry is coming. The only thing they really control in this fight now is how long it takes and how much credit or blame they get when the shouting is over.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

I haven't looked around really hard . . . but I haven't seen a webcomic, Youtube entrepreneur or anyone else do the most obvious slam-dunk eyeball magnet I can think of: The Apocalypse Now bit, starring a reasonable facsimile of Martin Sheen as Willard and, inevitably, a gross caricature of Charlie Sheen as Col. Kurtz.

Then again, when Charlie Sheen does the inevitable interview in which he shaves his head in the presence of a Serious News Reporter and then does a 6-minute monologue about a snail crawling on the edge of a straight razor, real life will once again overtake satire. Maybe somebody did the math and decided that it wasn't worth it to spend a week making a bit that won't be satirical anymore in ten days or so.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Since I'm Posting Again, Let's Watch Mike Huckabee Bow Out Gracelessly

I once had a very uncomfortable couple of minutes in an ambulance late at night. It wasn't that time on the backboard--that happened in the morning--but the time that I gave my honest thoughts on Mike Huckabee's campaign for President. Frankly, I was not complimentary. It turned out that my partner that night knows Governor Huckabee as "Brother Mike." Brother Mike was his pastor in Arkansas, and he has lots of folksy memories of church and church camp and the time he gave Brother Mike's son an attitude adjustment by slamming him down on a pool table.


According to Michael Shear in the New York Times, Brother Mike Huckabee picked this week to wonder on air whether Barack Obama was really born in Hawaii. He doubled down on this strategy by mentioning that President Obama grew up in Kenya. The chief drawback of that approach was that it isn't true, and even the birthiest Birthers don't actually allege that it's true, so it was probably just misspoken.

In any case, maybe I'll get to see whether one of my pet theories pans out. Although I was far from the first or only to propose it, I believe it's likely that President Obama decided long ago that the Birth Certificate Controversy (tm) hurt its proponents more than it hurt him. I believe he has deliberately refused to settle the matter definitively by releasing his long-form birth certificate or any other evidence (which I believe do exist and can be released whenever he chooses.) I believe that he's doing all this in order to keep the controversy as high as possible and tempt prospective political challengers to try to use it. And I believe that when the controversy cools or when big enough Republican fish have taken the bait and committed themselves to the Way of the Birther, the President plans to pull the rug out very publicly.

In short, anyone who is still talking about the President's birth certificate is being given enough rope to hang himself, and Brother Mike has just stuck his neck into the noose. It's all fun and games until the President opens the trap door.