SPRINGFIELD – Thousands of gun owners descended on the Capitol Wednesday, demanding that lawmakers give Illinoisans the right to carry concealed weapons.
“We’re here to remind legislators that 49 other states have concealed carry laws and that 49 other states aren’t wrong,” said John Naese of Philo, who helped organize several of the busloads of people who rallied for gun rights.
Their wishes, however, may be thwarted by election year politics.
With every member of the General Assembly up for re-election this year, legislators may be inclined to shy away from controversial votes.
A measure bringing Illinois in line with the rest of the nation on the issue of concealed weapons is just one of the hot-button issues that might be left on the backburner until after the November balloting.
“I would be surprised it is came up,” said state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville. “I doubt if a lot of people want to be on that vote.”
A number of gun-related proposals are positioned for votes in the House.
Just as downstate lawmakers have been pushing to legalize concealed weapons, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is backing legislation that would create a handgun registry. State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, also is pushing for a tax on ammunition to be used to help hospitals that serve gunshot wound victims.
Those two issues lit a fire under Steve Mann, an Olney retiree who hadn’t previously attended a gun lobby day.
“I didn’t vote for the mayor of Chicago to be the mayor of Illinois,” Mann said. “They just keep trying to chip away at our rights.”
A concealed weapons proposal that fell six votes short of passage in the House last May has some lawmakers hopeful they will get closer if a vote is call for this spring.
“It keeps getting closer every year,” added state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton.
But, Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, said he’s not sure the issue will advance this year.
“I’m pretty certain that neither side has enough votes to win,” Brown said Wednesday.