Gun laws could get new look

In March, the Supreme Court is expected to hear a case that could turn gun laws in Illinois upside down.

McDonald v. Chicago will question the constitutionality of the city’s gun ban. If the court sides with gun-rights proponents, as it did in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Chicago-area politicians who dominate in battles over gun laws could lose their influence.

“If they follow the Heller decision and they apply the second amendment to state and local governments, ... what happens logically is we have right to carry via the courts,” said Todd Vandermyde, state lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.

The Chicago area’s Democrats and the Springfield politicians who support them long have kept gun-rights laws from advancing in the Legislature.

State Rep. Mike Tryon said that even when gun-rights bills – such as those advocating concealed carry – had been proposed, they seldom made it to the House or Senate floors.

“We always have a concealed-carry bill. It’s just it never really gets a fair chance and a fair debate,” said Tryon, R-Crystal Lake. “If you can’t get bills called for a good debate and you can’t get them called on the House floor for a vote, they never pass.”

For Illinoisans, that means gun rights isn’t just a partisan issue – it’s geographic.

Consider the Pro Second Amendment Resolution, which the McHenry County Board adopted with unanimous support in April 2008.

Ninety counties in the state joined McHenry County in opposing the passage of any bills that would put limits on the right to bear arms, according to the Illinois Pro Second Amendment Resolution Web site.

The resolution failed in Lake County, and lingered at “undecided” in Cook, DuPage and DeKalb counties. The resolution passed in almost every other county.

It’s not all grim for right to carry supporters in the collar counties, though.

A Spring Grove resident, Lou Rofrano, has launched a group called the McHenry County Right to Carry Association. The group’s kickoff event isn’t until Thursday, but the concept already has garnered regional attention.

“We’ve needed a voice out in our suburbs for quite a while,” said Bryan Javor, president of McHenry County Young Republicans.

Among his goals for the group, Rofrano said he wanted the association to serve as an educational outlet about the rights guaranteed by the second amendment. He’s optimistic that approach not only will attract other residents, but ultimately influence legislators in historically anti-carry areas.

“I think we have to try and reach out to some of the representation that’s in Cook County because there’s a lot of resistance in Cook County,” Rofrano said.

The political climate might make that easier, Javor said.

Rod Blagojevich’s ouster from office and the state budget crisis have caused many voters to become more aware of what’s happening in Illinois politics, Javor said. As voters become disillusioned with Democrats on those issues, they also might question their historically anti-gun rights stance.

“The Democratic party tends to not like guns or tends to try to restrict gun owners’ rights,” Javor said. “I think people are beginning to look closer at other policies by Democrats.”

McHenry County Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathleen Bergan Schmidt said she wasn’t sure what the state party’s position on concealed-carry laws was, and her organization hadn’t taken a position, either. But she recognized that it’s a divisive issue.

“To either pass or defeat it will probably take some effort on the part of supporters of either position,” Bergan Schmidt said. “It’s not going to sail through easily.”

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