SPRINGFIELD -- This sign hangs in a Statehouse office as a telling reminder of the price of politics: "Welcome to Iowa. We're sorry Illinois was so bad to you."|
The placard in Sen. Mike Jacobs' workplace is a reminder of how an Iowa community near the East Moline Democrat's district lured away a manufacturer.
And the Illinois Legislature made it easy.
After all, how willing would you be to invest in new manufacturing equipment or to expand your workforce if every year the state Legislature debated whether you should be put out of business?
A cluster of factories across Western Illinois make firearms -- for police, the military and, yes, for civilians. And each year an awkwardly worded bill is introduced to limit the manufacture, sale and possession of these types of guns in the state.
The measure would essentially shutter a $250 million industry in Illinois and send hundreds of skilled workers to the unemployment line.
To be honest, I'm not particularly passionate about guns -- one way or another. But I do care about keeping jobs in Illinois and promoting a positive business environment.
What is at issue here is whether an established industry in Illinois should have some degree of certainty regarding state regulations impacting its future.
"It doesn't matter that every time one of these bills gets introduced that they are defeated," said Jay Keller, executive director of the Illinois Firearms Manufacturers Association. "Every time it happens the workers in these plants become terrified. They ask themselves: will we be able to support our families? There is enormous pressure on the owners of these firms to move out of state."
That is what the pistol maker Les Baer Custom did several years ago when it moved its plant from Western Illinois to Le Claire, Iowa. The company is still making the same guns it always did. It is still selling them to the same folks it always has. But the jobs have moved elsewhere.
Gov. Pat Quinn used his amendatory veto powers to add an assault weapons and large capacity bullet magazine ban to a bill sponsored by Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, a Republican from Okawville.Luechtefeld, who is about as pro-gun a lawmaker as they come, controls what happens to that bill -- so the measure is dead.
Quinn, of course, knew that would be the case but did it anyway in a calculated move to capture media attention in wake of the Aurora, Colo., shooting.
The "legislation" he introduced through his veto pen goes far beyond banning civilian ownership of certain guns.
The measure would prohibit making these guns in Illinois even if they were being sold to the armies of our allies or exported to other states for legal use. It would even ban selling guns to retailers that cater to law enforcement.
"For years, when similar bills would come up, we couldn't even get them to make an exemption for manufacturing firearms going to the U.S. military," Keller said.
That's hardly surprising. The measure isn't about serious policy making. It is political grandstanding.
Grandstanders don't sweat the details. They focus on the soundbite.
But it has a price.
The workers are tired of worrying. Their bosses are tired of lobbying. And plenty of other states would welcome the industry.
It's a recipe for job loss.
Don't the working people of Illinois deserve better?
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milan, IL Details
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