Posted Online: April 23, 2013, 3:01 pm

Editorial: Wanted: A better sheriff

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The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus

Rarely is the chasm between metropolitan Chicago and downstate wider than when it comes to guns.

Views regarding gun laws in communities like this one, where there's a good chance you, or your neighbors, have a weapon safely tucked away in the home, are understandably different from those in a city besieged by gun violence.

In the past, the two sides have found common ground by not really looking for it. Chicago and collar counties back restrictive state laws and, when they fail to win approval, settle for restrictive local ordinances -- except when it comes to concealed carry. Over the years, Chicago lawmakers have successfully fought every effort to craft a reasonable and strictly drawn concealed carry measure that would protect the Second Amendment rights of Illinoisans.

Now the courts, the great equalizers, have stepped in, demanding Illinois enact such a law and that the General Assembly do so by June 9th. As that date races toward us, Chicago politicians play politics with the issue and the U.S. 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' edict. Elsewhere in Viewpoints today, Capitol Fax's Rich Miller, outlines the all-out effort by Chicago Democrats, led by Speaker Michael Madigan, to defeat a concealed carry measure sponsors thought had the super-majority needed to prevail in the House.

Joining him in twisting arms to defeat a bill that should have passed were not only the Chicago Democrat House speaker and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but Gov. Pat Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, also Chicago Democrats and potential candidates in the 2014 race for governor.

Their successful efforts last week to hold the rest of the state hostage to Chicago interests leave us with two conclusions: First, the speaker's strong-arming of members calls into question claims that the bevy of votes he's orchestrated on guns and pension reform are not really aimed at determining what members want. And second, the governor and attorney general do not appear to be interested in representing the whole state on this issue. Though Illinoisans outside of his district can't do much about the speaker's actions, they can hold accountable statewide leaders who joined in to curb their rights. We urge voters to watch carefully what comes next.

That next showdown could come this week in the Senate, if a compromise is called that would legalize concealed carry for anyone who can pass a background check everywhere but in Chicago. We admit the bill being negotiated by Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, and Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, has appeal: If Chicago is the problem, let Chicago deal with it. If it were only that simple.

We worry whether or not opting out Chicago will satisfy the appellate court edict. After all, the court's demand that Illinois legalize concealed carry did not offer a clause to exempt Chicago. Could justices rule a law that addresses only part of the state constitutional? What about separate laws that treat citizens from different parts of the state differently? Surely that would not pass constitutional muster. The Constitution should apply equally to everyone.

Q-C area legislators remain on the right side of the issue, but Reps. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, and Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, and state Sens. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, and Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, and their gun-rights allies have been unable to move Chicago lawmakers and their leaders. And so we await the pleasure of the speaker and fellow Chicago Democrat Senate President John Cullerton.

Meanwhile, gun-rights advocates say each day's inaction pushes Illinois closer to what they're calling "constitutional carry," whereby Illinoisans can carry any weapon anywhere they wish without restriction.

A worrisome third way is also being suggested: Go back to the courts and either ask the 7th Circuit for more time, or appeal its December ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. While that would represent business as usual for a Legislature which has all but declared Kick the Can the state's official game, it is an astonishingly bad idea. After giving lawmakers six months to resolve the issue, how can justices reasonably conclude they deserve more?

Similarly, opponents of concealed carry have real no basis to expect the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a constitutional right that is legal in every state but this one.

Both sides warn against a Wild West of gun-toting lawlessness. Without a legislative sheriff willing to lead, we fear it soon will become a reality.