As most of you know, this has been a very tense week for the law-abiding Illinois firearm owner. As most of us were getting ready to ring in the New Year, Senate President John Cullerton and his band of gun controllers were secretly preparing a major offensive against your gun rights. We got wind of the pending attack on your 2nd Amendment rights early in the week and immediately called together our lobbyists and strategic planners to build a defense.
When we finally saw the public release of the Cullerton plan mid-week, we were shocked at what we saw. Based on recent events, we fully expected to see legislative proposals to ban so-called “assault weapons,” and so-called “high-capacity ammunition feeding devices.” However, those affronts to your rights paled in comparison with what Cullerton’s proposal entailed. Here is a sampling of the extremist proposals advanced by Cullerton’s gun-grab plan:
- The Illinois State Police would be given full control over the design and operation of commercial gun ranges in the state. That control would extend from the design of the bullet backstops to qualifications of range employees and even to the color of the paint on the walls of the men’s room. The State Police would determine the hours of operation, what types and calibers of firearms could be discharged at the range, and even a minimum number of square feet. Every range customer would have to undergo a background check and each customer’s visit would be logged by the range operator. Any Illinois law enforcement agency could conduct unannounced and warrantless inspections and searches of ranges at any time. Those searches and inspections would extend to range customers and their property. That means that the Chicago Police Department would have the authority to raid a range in Peoria and roust the customers of that range. The bottom line is, this range regulation proposal has the sole objective of running commercial shooting ranges out of business. We had never seen anything like this before, but the intent was clear.
- All semi-automatic firearms would be either banned outright, or be so severely taxed and restricted that ownership would be impractical. We expected to see attempts to ban or regulate AR and AK type firearms, but what we saw in Cullerton’s proposal carried that to an extreme. Cullerton’s gun ban would extend to all semiautomatic rifles, pistols and shotguns. Additionally, many pump action rifles and shotguns would be banned as well. This ban would include such classics as the 1911 and the M1 Garand. Of course, all Glocks, Sig-Sauers, and other popular pistols would be banned as well. Estimates are that about 50% of rifles and 80% of handguns lawfully-owned by Illinois citizens would be subject to ban and confiscation under the Cullerton gun ban.
- A bizarre and convoluted scheme to register all “ammunition feeding devices” capable of holding more than 10 rounds – including magazines, stripper clips, drums, etc. Since none of these devices possess serial numbers, owners of these devices would essentially register them under the “honor system.” Of course, we all know how well criminals stick to the honor system.
The two bills containing these provisions, HB0815 and HB1263, were both assigned to the Senate Public Health Committee for review. This committee is notoriously anti-gun and is stacked 6 to 4 with antigun Democrats under Cullerton’s thumb. On Wednesday night, the two bills came up for hearing before the Senate Public Health Committee. During debate of these two bills, we heard straight from the horses’ mouths what the intents and purposes of these bills were. Sitting there listening to the sponsors and their supporters was a very maddening experience.
Committee testimony given by the anti-gunners confirmed that the gun control movement holds firearm owners in deep contempt. During testimony, the gun controllers claimed that the range restriction bill would actually preserve 2nd Amendment rights while providing public safety. The gun controllers acknowledged that most semiautomatic firearms would be banned, but that people who wished to shoot semiautomatics should be reassured because they would be able to go to an approved range and legally rent semiautomatics to shoot. In other words, you should not be upset about surrendering your $5,000 target rifle because you can still go down to an approved range and get a junker out of the rental case to plink with. This was one of the most condescending lines of testimony I have ever heard levied against the right to keep and bear arms – and the anti-gunners uttered it with completely straight faces. The gun controllers really need to keep in mind that the 2nd Amendment says "keep and bear arms,” not "rent arms.”
Of course, nowhere in any of the testimony given by the bills’ supporters was there any mention of how these restrictions and bans would affect criminals. In fact, the bill proponents became extremely defensive when pro-gun witnesses mentioned anything about violent gun-toting criminals. It was clear that the proponents’ focus was solely on lawfully held firearms. In not so many words, the supporters of these bills claimed that they were good “first steps” to achieving a “civil society.” In the twisted world-view of the anti-gunners, law-abiding citizens are standing in the way of a civil society, not criminals.
As most of you may know, the two bills passed out of the Public Health Committee by 6-4 and 6-3 votes. The next step would be a vote on the floor. Late Thursday, the newspapers were reporting that the sponsors are delaying a vote on the bills because they do not have enough support for passage. Please, don’t be fooled by such claims. These bills are alive and well and can be called up for a vote at any time.
In writing this note, I thought I’d give you a taste of what the ISRA lobbyists experience every day in Springfield. We could not continue to do what we do without knowing that you, the law-abiding citizen, has our back. Your support is crucial to our success – we do all we do for you. So, with that in mind, there are a few things I’d like you to do:
1. Remember that these anti-gun bills are eligible for a full vote of the Senate at any time up through next Wednesday. Do not be lulled to sleep by media claims that the bills are dead.
2. Keep an eye on your email for any alerts the ISRA issues regarding these bills or any other anti-gun activity.
3. Please consider giving the ISRA a generous monetary donation so we may continue the fight for your rights.
Richard A. Pearson is Executive Director of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
First published at the ISRA website.