Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2013, 12:14 pm
Editorial: Ratchet down rhetoric
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The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus
They're called bomb throwers for a reason.
They're the folks who don't talk politics, they scream them. They don't agitate for their rights, they threaten. Very often their battle is worth fighting. Trouble is, their angry, sometimes frightening tirades, drown out what they have to contribute to the debate.
We've seen that happen with the National Rifle Association's bomb-thrower-in-chief Wayne LaPierre, whose take-no-prisoners, over-the-top style does more to harm the case for gun-owner rights than advance it among many policymakers. Who, for example, holds a gun appreciation day in the wake of the Newtown tragedy?
He and his ardent followers would do well to remember the expression popularized by well-known gun-enthusiast Teddy Roosevelt: "Speak softy and carry a big stick, and you will go far."
Fortunately, so far, gun rights groups lobbying in Springfield are eschewing scorched-earth tactics in the effort to codify overdue concealed carry rights in Illinois.
They are wise to do so, particularly when they hold a very powerful stick: a federal appeals panel's order -- affirmed last week by the full court -- requiring Illinois lawmakers within six month to approve a right already available in 49 other states.
Still, we imagine that it is difficult not to react to claims by officials who ought to know better that what the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said doesn't matter. While Attorney General Lisa Madigan may yet appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the dissent issued by minority justices in the Seventh Circuit may even provide her with some ammunition, it is irresponsible to suggest that state lawmakers simply can ignore what the appeals court said.
That, however, was the message delivered by Chicago prosecutors last week in an Illinois House hearing on the issue. Paul Castiglione, policy director for the Cook County State's Attorney's office, said, "Only the Illinois Supreme Court can declare a statute from this body to be unconstitutional." He also further thumbed his nose at justices by suggesting that the Legislature's failure to act would not render the unlawful use of weapon statute unconstitutional.
Fortunately, that's a chance even some staunchly anti-gun Chicago lawmakers are unwilling to take.
Where do we go from here?
As of this writing, House Speaker Michael Madigan had scheduled a hearing Tuesday at which legislators would be allowed to submit and perhaps debate amendments to a concealed carry bill.
By mid-afternoon Monday, 26 restrictions reportedly already had been filed to ban carry weapons in places like, mass transit, schools and casinos.
"In light of events in recent months in Illinois and in other parts of the country, it's appropriate and necessary that we give a full vetting to proposed state legislation on this matter," Speaker Madigan said, adding that this is probably just the first such session on the topic.
The Senate also is planning to attack the issue, with a Chicago Democrat leader taking the lead.
We're happy lawful concealed carry will get a full and public hearing but happier still that advocates like the Illinois Rifle Association's Todd Vandermyde stand ready to guard against efforts to so completely dilute a proposed law that it effectively eliminates the right it seeks to grant.
Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick toward that inflexible early June deadline and the need for reasonable voices to rise above the shouting from the extremes grows more urgent.
Both sides -- Chicago Democrats and downstate lawmakers and gun rights advocates -- will have to bend a bit to do what must be done. It helps that they have no choice but to succeed or both sides will find themselves at the mercy of the courts.