This commentary is a repeat of the essay originally published here on Thursday that was blipped out of existence, so to speak, by Blogger – which had technical difficulties that made it impossible for me to edit copy on this site for a 24-hour time period on Thursday and Friday.
A part of me would like to believe that Rich Miller, the puiblisher of the Capitol Fax newsletter out of Springfield and its accompanying website, is somehow missing the mark on one of his latest reports.
But the Rich Miller I knew when I was a Statehouse reporter-type just over a decade ago was fairly accurate. So it seems that some of our state government officials are so determined to get something resembling the carrying of concealed firearms written into Illinois law that they have concocted one of the stupidest compromises I have ever heard of.
AS REPORTED BY Capitol Fax, there is talk of a "concealed carry" bill that would allow each of Illinois' 102 county sheriffs to decide whether or not their counties would issue permits to people that would allow them to have that pistol in a purse or suck in their pants waistband.
The measure that failed to make it through the Illinois House of Representatives recently would have required all sheriffs to issue the permits once applicants received a certain amount of training and passed something resembling a background check.
My guess is that the proponents of such a law (I'm not one of them, as I'm sure regular readers of these commentaries figured out a long time ago) think that these local cops will be ideologically conservative enough that they will go along with the "concealed carry" permits.
Critics of such laws probably also think that those cops will follow along with what I have seen in dealing with police -- a mentality that would prefer as few weapons out on the street as possible because of the chance that something can go wrong.
WHICH, WHEN IT comes to handguns, means that someone can get injured or killed.
Somehow, I suspect that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart wouldn't be among the ideologues who would start issuing such permits. Which would mean that for us Chicago residents who are disgusted with the legal antics that are encouraging these firearms proponents, we likely would get to keep our status quo.
Which would mean that anybody found by police with a firearm had better come up with a very good explanation as to why they're carrying it.
And if it were really just a matter of letting local sheriffs decide this issue, I'd agree there is a chance that the end result likely would reflect local opinion.
THE PROBLEM, AS I see it, is that this creates the overwhelming chance for chaos.
Illinois would become a goofy patchwork of counties and people would have to keep it straight in their minds which ones think it is sensible for people to be "packing heat," and which realize just how foolish the concept is.
But those permits approved by county sheriffs would be valid statewide. Which means that those people who live in counties where such activity would be considered acceptable would then be able to venture into Cook County with their card and their firearms.
I can already envision in my mind the lawsuit that gets filed by some downstate resident who gets arrested with a firearm because some Chicago cop (or perhaps one from one of the inner suburbs) sees a pistol and makes an arrest.
WE'RE ASKING ALRLEADY-overburdened law enforcement officers to have to make yet another judgment call as to who in Chicago should be allowed to walk away from a stop with their pistol and who should be taken into custody.
I'm getting a headache just writing these sentences about the confusion. What will it be like for the actual officer would have to be thought of as a nightmare.
Who's also to say that we wouldn't suddenly get a surge in the number of Chicago-area people who somehow try to establish themselves as residents of one of those rural counties so they can get the permit?
I'm sure they could be hit with criminal charges related to deceptive use of an address. But it just seems a lot easier to me for the state to not take this political step.
SO WHY ARE our state legislators even bothering?
It all goes back to the concept that some of the rural legislators think they are owed a favorable vote on this bill, as some sort of compromise for some of the progressive measures that Illinois state officials have had the courage to approve in recent months.
It would seem that they're so desperate to say they got something falling under the category of "concealed carry" approved into law that they're even willing to settle for something as confusing and convoluted as this proposed compromise.
It wouldn't be real activity. It would be minor. But they could exaggerate it into a "significant" achievement. I'd say why bother.
IF ANYTHING, THIS issue is making our Legislature look as ridiculous as the officials in Indiana, who were so determined to say they passed an "immigration reform" bill that favors conservative ideologues that they stripped out most of the truly despicable measures -- leaving behind just a few nuisance measures so that the "right" can say they harassed people who weren't just like themselves.
I wish Illinois officials would write this issue off for the year (I'm sure they'll come back with full force in 2012). After all, there is still a state budget that needs to be put togetherm, with significant holes that need to be plugged.
Then again, Illinois' General Assembly wouldn't be behaving like itself if someone wasn't wasting significant amounts of time on something pointless and confusing -- like a "concealed carry" compromise.