Carmi, Ill. -
But they say their most recent effort with a better promise of success is being impeded by, of all organizations, the National Rifle Association.
For nearly 15 years, license-to-carry bills have been repeatedly introduced to the Illinois Legislature - and have repeatedly failed. The Rowes blame opposition from the Chicago and Cook County area legislators.
"That opposition means every year the same old bills calling for statewide preemption, which would force the carry law into Chicago, guarantees the bill is dead on arrival," the Rowes said in a written press release. "A bill or two may make the headlines, but never to the floor for a vote, largely due to the opposition of Mayor [Richard] Daley and Cook County legislators."
The likelihood of a statewide preemption bill being passed is greatly reduced by the fact that bills overriding "home rule status" require 71 votes for passage rather than a simple majority of 60. "Home rule status" means local governments can opt not to participate in the passed legislation.
"Double or triple that reduction by the fact that in Chicago it is illegal to even own a handgun, let alone carry one for self-defense purposes," the Rowes said. "We find it somewhat ludicrous to even consider a statewide preemptive bill passing in the state of Illinois given those circumstances."
The Rowes thought they had found a solution with the help of Rep. Brandon Phelps, who sponsored right-to-carry legislation that included "home rule" language that would have allowed county and municipal governments to choose whether or not to allow concealed carry in their jurisdictions.
The bad news is the NRA opposed the bill and its powerful lobby in Springfield went to work right away to kill the legislation.
The Rowes argued that other states, like Pennsylvania and Nebraska, faced years of major opposition to concealed carry laws like what has occurred in Illinois. "They finally won their battle by passing a carry law which we in Illinois would call 'subject to home rule,'" the Rowes said. "[It is] an imperfect bill that allowed major cities to opt out, but [it] did provide a means for license-to-carry to get a foothold in the state. Pro-Second Amendment groups in Pennsylvania were then able to prove carrying firearms for self-defense works and they came back in just a few short years and successfully expanded the law to include everyone.
"Nebraska, just two short years after passing their license-to-carry bill, now has statewide preemption, according to their state's attorney general, and are now working to amend their law."
With those recent successes in mind, many license-to-carry supporters in Illinois were excited when Phelps decided it was time to try the same strategy in Illinois.
"How about a bill that would require only a simple majority of 60 votes, would provide an opportunity for license-to-carry to get a foot in the door, something similar to what has been so successful in Pennsylvania and Nebraska?" the Rowes asked rhetorically. "How about a 'subject to home rule' bill which would allow home rule municipalities to opt out if they so choose, but citizens in the vast majority of the state would be free to exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms?"
The Citizens Self-Defense Act, HB 2257, was born and introduced by Phelps. Keeping in mind a statewide preemptive law is the ultimate goal, IllinoisCarry members, including members residing in municipalities sure to ban the practice, have given their full support to the idea of subject to home rule carry and believe the premise behind it is the best hope of getting any kind of license-to-carry bill passed in the state of Illinois.
HB2257 started off with good promise.
"Phelps reported he felt sure he could garner the 60 votes needed to pass it out of the House," the Rowes said. "So it came as a huge shock and disappointment to learn from legislators that the NRA was actually lobbying against it. When contacted by IllinoisCarry, the NRA lobbyist confirmed the NRA was indeed lobbying against the bill and vowed to kill it.
"The reason given for the opposition was that the bill did not include statewide preemption; that it would create a patchwork of ordinances all across the state which could be detrimental to license holders and it would ultimately be vetoed by Gov. Patrick Quinn and still need 71 votes for a veto override."
The Rowes reported the NRA lobbyist said it was a better idea to continue to wait and work toward a change in the political makeup of the Illinois Legislature.
The Times attempted to contact the NRA without success. A message was left with the office personnel of Randy Kozuch, the director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, State and Local Affairs, seeking the NRA's comment on the matter.
The message remains unreturned.
The Rowes maintain that statewide preemption didn't pass even when the Legislature had a more favorable party in office and continuing to wait will only result in more defenseless victims being violently assaulted and murdered. "Citizens in the rest of the state where license to carry is being welcomed should not be denied the right to defend themselves just because other municipalities choose to infringe on their citizens' rights," the Rowes said.
"Furthering the argument for a subject to home rule bill like HB2257, IllinoisCarry is confident it will lead to statewide preemption as it has in Pennsylvania and Nebraska. Illinois firearm owners already have to work within a patchwork of city ordinances concerning firearms, and a look at the listing of city ordinances on the Illinois State Police website would verify that fact. Although Gov. Quinn may very well veto the bill, we will never know that if every such bill is killed by the NRA-ILA without a good hard push for passage.
"We need the NRA-ILA and their hardworking lobbyists on the Illinois Second Amendment team but we differ greatly on this issue of denying an opportunity for a subject to home rule bill to come to a vote. The NRA-ILA lobbyist for Illinois is one of the best in the country and has been invaluable in the battle to curtail bad gun bills in the state of Illinois.
"We recognize lobbyists must follow the bidding of the organization they represent. We have been assured by [the NRA lobbyist] that if the NRA-ILA changes their stance on the issue to one of support, then he will support the issue also.
"Now after weeks of conversation with the NRA-ILA, their leadership team has temporarily changed their position from opposition to neutral while they claim to study the issue. It is our opinion a subject to home rule license-to-carry bill will not advance in Illinois without the support of the NRA-ILA. We need the NRA to support subject to home rule carry in Illinois."
The Rowes planned to travel to Champaign this week to meet with the Champaign County organization Guns Save Life (the Champaign County Rifle Association). The NRA lobbyist was expected to attend the meeting and participate in a question and answer session along with the Rowes on the issue.
The Rowes are asking local residents who would like to see the NRA support this piece of legislation and any other "home rule" legislation to contact the following:
Chris Cox, Executive Director, NRA-ILA, 1-800-392-8683, 1-703-267-3973 fax, CCox@NRAhq.org
Scott Christman, Assist. Ex. Dir., NRA-ILA, 703-267-1140, SChristman@NRAhq.org
Randy Kozuch, Director, ILA-State and Local Affairs, 703-267-1202, 703-267-3976 fax, RKozuch@NRAhq.org
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