Crowd marches in Springfield for annual gun owner lobby day

Gun Rights

In its first lobby day since the passage of the assault-style weapons ban, Illinois gun rights advocates marched the streets of Springfield on Wednesday.

The Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day is sponsored by the Illinois State Riffle Association, who is behind one of several lawsuits filed against the Protect Illinois Communities Act. Passed under House Bill 5471, the act bans the sale and manufacturing of hundreds of firearms defined as “assault weapons,” assault weapon attachments, .50-caliber rifles and .50-caliber cartridges, as well as large-capacity magazines.

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The hundreds in town for IGOLD marched from the Bank of Springfield Center to the Lincoln statue on the Capitol grounds a little after 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Among those visiting was Roger Probst, visiting from Aurora.

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This was his first time attending the lobby day for gun owners, although previously coming to the Capitol to lobby for firefighters. Probst, an ISRA and National Rifle Association member, recounted several recent shootings in his northeastern Illinois community, where he feels laws passed by the General Assembly have emboldened criminals and granting them more rights than law-abiding citizens.

“If you don’t stand up, make yourself known, your rights will go away,” he said.

Speakers at the BOS Center included ISRA leadership Richard Pearson, executive director, and Doug Mayhall, president among several others. Both expressed confidence in its lawsuit, set to be heard in East St. Louis next month as well as others.

ISRA’s lawsuit is federal while the others have been filed at the county level, naming Gov. JB Pritzker, Senate President Don Harmon and House Leader Emanuel “Chris” Welch as defendants. The Illinois Supreme Court recently agreed to fast-track the state’s appeal from a Macon County judge ruling where he found portions of new law unconstitutional.

“We’re going to fight them every inch of the way,” Pearson said. “But, I actually believe that what’s coming up in the next few months will turn the tide of firearms legislation in the United States.”

House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, joined other speakers in airing their grievances against Democrats, who have passed bills they feel are counter to constitutional gun rights. Her predecessor, former Minority Leader Jim Durkin was the only the House Republican to vote in favor of the assault-style weapons ban during a lame duck session in January.

McCombie and ISRA lobbyists railed against the process in which gun bills, and many other more controversial bills are passed – adding amendments to shell bills and then being advanced to a vote before legislators and the public have a complete understanding of the legislation.

“Every day, our caucus fights bad legislation like gun registries, gun bans and cumbersome regulations,” she said. “Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle do not solicit or consider stakeholders opinions.”

The key difference in the gun control debate, ISRA lobbyist Ed Sullivan said, is how rural and urban communities view guns in general. He recalled how members of Mothers Demand Action, a gun control advocacy group, were appalled when he said his middle school son knew how to dissemble and clean an AR-15.

“What’s the difference between us and them? We’re cheering,” he said.

In the wake of the recent Nashville shooting, resulting in the deaths of six people including three third graders, Illinois House of Representatives held a moment of silence on the House floor Tuesday.

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State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, chief architect of the assault-style weapons ban, reflected on the latest shooting. He marched in the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park last year where a shooter killed seven and injured more than 30.

Morgan, countering recent comments made by U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-TN, where he said Congress is “not going to fix it” in regards to gun violence, said more legislative action was needed in Springfield and Washington. Democrats in the 103rd Illinois General Assembly have introduced several gun bills so far, but none have made much progress so far.

“We have to keep our young children from fearing am assault weapon firing on them in their classroom,” he said. “Instead, they need to be focused on reading Dr. Seuss or just learning about math and science – just being children.”

Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340, pkeck@gannett.com, twitter.com/pkeckreporter.

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