Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chicago uses clout to get Legislature to thwart handgun proponents – for now

Bloodless, but a battleground just the same
It is a tactic I recall being used on a couple of occasions by the Illinois House of Representatives when pondering a bill that urban Democratic interests wished to die.

After hearing debate, the House leadership (a.k.a., House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and his aides) makes a ruling that there is something unique about the particular bill that means a simple majority vote in favor just isn’t good enough.

THAT TACTIC GOT used on Wednesday on a bill by a rural Illinois legislator who wants to forbid local governments from passing anything in the way of local ordinances that would restrict firearms ownership.

They want the rural perspective that is a minority of the state’s population to prevail, and they don’t want there to be large swaths of the state in which common-sense restriction on firearms ownership would be in place.

They’ll scream about how the Second Amendment to the Constitution ensures that the federal government won’t impose restrictions, and how they want the state government to be the only body that can restrict firearms ownership and use – which they will then fight to ensure will impose nothing in the way of restrictions.

This is all part of the ongoing political battle taking place this spring to get the state Legislature to approve a bill allowing people to carry pistols on their persons when they are out in public. The bill that came up Wednesday was merely a preliminary measure, meant to serve as a symbolic “stick-it” to the city to let them know who the boss truly is.

BUT BASED ON what happened, I’d have to say we learned that Chicago still has some say over what is going to happen on the issue of firearms.

For Madigan and his aides determined that because this bill would impact home rule communities (those with 25,000-or-more population who have special powers to determine their own tax policies), it needs that 60 percent majority vote to pass – instead of a simple 50 percent-plus-one vote.

So a 61-48 Illinois House vote for the bill by state Rep. Wayne Rosenthal, R-Morrisonville, wasn’t going to cut it. Somehow, I have a feeling that the gun-rights people felt the same way that opponents of laws requiring motorcycle helmets felt several years ago when Madigan used the same interpretation of the rules to require a larger vote than they were prepared to come up with on that day.

“We got screwed!,” they screeched.

NOT THAT I’M going to cry for them too much, even though I will be the first to admit it is because it means an overly-strict interpretation of the rules for an issue of which I don’t think much of.

I’m glad to see that this desire by the gun-rights crowd to play off the momentum they gained when the Supreme Court of the United States last year struck down the three-decade-old Chicago ordinances that made firearms ownership of any type in the city limits an illegal act isn’t going to be a political cakewalk.

If they want it, they’re going to have to fight for it – particularly in a state where two-thirds of the population is Chicago-area. Albeit, about two-thirds of that urban population is suburban in nature – and some of the political people from those districts will side with their rural counterparts just as a way of trying to one-up the city proper on at least one issue.

To really unite the Legislature and the state’s regions, we’d have to take the Illinois House’s other action this week into account – passing a bill by an 85-14 vote that cuts the base salary of a legislator by 10 percent and also limits their ability to accept cost-of-living increases.

I COULDN’T HELP but notice from the Chicago Tribune reports about Wednesday’s vote that the sponsor of the measure for “concealed carry” admits he expects the same interpretation of the rules to be used against him when his bill comes up for a final Illinois House vote. He admits that, if called for a vote right now, he’d lose on that ground.

Which is why soon-to-be former Mayor Richard M. Daley and Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel sent their letter to state legislators urging them to oppose the measure. It is meant to counter the letters and other acts from law enforcement-related associations that are taking out their objections to Daley’s actions throughout the years by trying to stick it to him on this issue.

In short, the whole firearms-ownership issue is an ongoing political battle that will be fought at the Illinois Statehouse. Chicago won on Wednesday. We’ll have to wait until late May (when the legislative session ends for the spring) to determine the winner.

For as the old cliché goes, “We’ll see who’s left standing at the end.”


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