Thursday, January 10, 2013

So predictable. Little to lose. And it just might work to curb assault weapons

I can’t say I was shocked to learn of the action taken this week by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan with regards to the court ruling that says Illinois has no choice but to accept a person’s right to carry a firearm concealed on their person in public.

That ruling by a three-member appeals court panel (by a 2-1 vote) had given aid and comfort to the people who have long sought to shoot down the stringent laws that Chicago has against firearms possession within the city – and those suburbs that also view a person’s firearms with suspicion.

THEY SAW THAT ruling and its 180-day time period for the state Legislature to impose a “concealed carry” measure for all of Illinois as something wondrous – the bulk of the state was going to be forced to go along with their minority viewpoint.

Which is how this crowd usually likes to get things done – by force and against the will of the masses.

But then, in following weeks, we have had yet another public shooting incident (the school in Newtown, Conn.) that has caused people to question the easy access to firearms and the lack of restrictions that exist in some cases as to who can obtain one.

There is a strong feeling across the nation to impose more restrictions – particularly against the kind of weapons that are capable of firing hundreds of rounds of ammunition in minutes and that have those large magazines that reduce the need to constantly re-load one’s weapon.

IN SHORT, THERE’S a social war at stake here (and I suspect the firearms proponents wish they could use their weapons to turn it into a heated battle). Two philosophies are crashing head-on.

I’m not about to predict how this battle will turn out.

But seeing that the state attorney general’s office is putting up a legal fight to the demand that “concealed carry” be forced upon us is something encouraging.

Madigan’s office issued a statement saying they want the Seventh Circuit U.S. District Court of Appeals (which covers Chicago and the surrounding Midwestern U.S.) to have a hearing “en banc.”

IT MEANS THAT instead of being merely considered by a three-judge panel (one of whom disagreed with the outcome), it will now involve all 20-something judges who serve in the Seventh Circuit Court.

They’ll all be asked to get involved. And they would have the authority to overturn the three-member panel, if a majority of all the appeals judges believe that is appropriate.

If that were to happen, the demand for any change toward “concealed carry” would go away – and the burden of any legal battle would shift back to the firearms proponents.

They would have to go back to making legal arguments to justify why people must be armed while walking to the supermarket, or must be allowed to own some of the most powerful weapons designed for military use.

FOR THE RECORD, I once had a gun owner tell me that his desire to own an AK-47 and an M-16 assault rifle were similar to those people who like automobiles and want to own the most sophisticated cars on the market. That was how he felt about weapons.

I don’t know if I buy into that argument (then again, I have always thought of cars as merely a transportation device and never wanted to spend too much money on one).

As to whether the entire appeals court will be willing to overturn their colleagues on that three-member panel? I don’t know that either.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the justices go into this rather skeptical and inclined to want to back the legal opinion already crafted. Then again, this is one of those hot issues that might well inspire the more-outspoken of the appeals justices to express a view of their own.

PLUS, I CAN say with some certainty that the masses who were disgusted with that “concealed carry” ruling were getting sick and tired of hearing how an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States was a long-shot that could take down all firearms restrictions across the nation. Madigan doing nothing would have been the most harmful thing she could have done to herself.

As for those people who are now going about saying that she has committed political suicide in the rural parts of the state, I question how many votes she would have got there to begin with.

This is an issue that needs to work all the way through the legal process. Because the way things are now, all this talk of forcing “concealed carry” onto all of Illinois has the feel of something being done solely because a pistol is being pointed at one’s temple.

That doesn’t sound like anything even remotely resembling Democracy to me!


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