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.

No comments: