Editorial: Ratchet down rhetoric

Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2013, 12:14 pm
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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.


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, July 31, the 212th day of 2014. There are 153 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: A corps of surgeons now occupies the new hospital quarters at the Garrison Hospital on the Rock Island Arsenal. A fence has been installed to enclose the prison hospital.
1889 -- 125 years ago: B. Winter has let a contract to Christ Schreiner for a two story brick building with a double store front on the south side of 3rd Avenue just west of 17th Street. The estimated cost was $4,500.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Germany sent simultaneous ultimatums to Russia and France, demanding that Russia suspend mobilization within 12 hours and demanding that France inform Germany within 18 hours. In the case of war between Germany and Russia, France would remain neutral.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Civil service offices at the post office and the Rock Island Arsenal were swamped as more than 700 youths sought 15 machinist apprenticeships at the Arsenal.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Last night, American Legion Post 246 in Moline figuratively handed over the trousers to a female ex-Marine and petticoat rule began. Olga Swanson, of Moline, was installed as the first woman commander of the post .
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illinois Quad City Civic Center captured the excitement and interest of a convention of auditorium managers this weekend in Reno, Nev. Bill Adams, civic center authority chairman, said the 10,000-seat arena planned for downtown Moline has caught the eye of construction firms, suppliers, management teams and concession groups.

(More History)