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Thursday, May 2, 2013 03:16 am

A state divided on guns

A new statewide poll shows a majority of Illinoisans favor concealed carry. But an overwhelming majority in every area of the state also say it’s OK with them if Chicago and Cook County police have additional authority over who gets to carry in their own jurisdictions.

The Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll of 1,284 likely voters found that 52 percent say they approve of allowing concealed carry.

“Illinois lawmakers are debating proposed laws that would allow some citizens who are properly licensed to carry concealed firearms,” respondents were told. “In general, do you approve or disapprove of allowing licensed citizens to carry loaded, concealed firearms?”

The poll, taken Apr. 24, found that 46 percent disapprove and just 2 percent were neutral or had no opinion. The poll had a margin of error of /-2.7 percent. 26 percent of the numbers called were cellphones.

Geography breaks down pretty much how you’d expect. Chicagoans staunchly opposed concealed carry 69-29, while suburban Cook County voters opposed it 52-46. Downstaters strongly support the proposal 67-32 and collar county voters support it 53-46.

Women disapproved of the idea 55-43, while men supported it 64-34. Republicans backed it 72-26, Democrats opposed it 34-65 and independents favored it 61-36. African-Americans opposed the idea 61-36, but whites backed it 56-43, as did Latinos, 56-43.

The results for the poll’s second question were even more interesting.

The Senate is currently considering a plan that would allow Chicago police and the Cook County Sheriff to reject State Police-issued concealed carry permits if they have questions about the applicant’s character. The plan stalled last week when Republican Senators balked after strong National Rifle Association opposition and Chicago-area Democrats demanded more restrictions in the rest of the bill.

But the voting public absolutely loves this idea, with a whopping 73 percent voicing their approval. “I can’t get 73 percent of people to agree that it’s dark at midnight,” joked We Ask America pollster Gregg Durham last week.

“If a concealed carry law is passed, Chicago and Cook County law enforcement officials want the right to stop a permit being issued to any individual in Chicago or Cook County when there is a concern about the applicant’s character,” respondents were told. “Do you think they should be able to stop a permit in Chicago or Cook County under those circumstances?”

A mere 22 percent disagreed with the proposal and only 5 percent were neutral or had no opinion.

The results didn’t surprise Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, who is attempting to craft a compromise bill. Raoul said he believed that downstaters don’t care what happens in Chicago or anywhere else as long as they get their right to carry. And Chicagoans are so concerned about guns that they want their local cops to have an extra say.

According to the poll, a hugely strong 71 percent of likely downstate voters said they approved of the plan, while 25 percent were opposed. The NRA has threatened legislators with retaliation if Chicagoans don’t end up with the same access to concealed carry as everyone else, but that particular message may not fly as long as downstaters get what they want for themselves.

Even so, downstaters seem to be sticking with the NRA. “I am working to pass a concealed carry law that specifically says it shall apply to all counties in Illinois,” state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, wrote on his website last week. “The Second Amendment of the Constitution applies [to] all citizens, including those in Chicago.”

But a sky-high 80 percent of likely Chicago voters approved of the proposal, as did 72 percent of suburban Cook voters and 71 percent of collar county voters.

Support was also very high across all demographics. Women were 80-14 in favor, and men were 62-32 in favor. Black voters backed it 75-16, whites supported it 65-34 and Latinos approved of it 75-18. Republicans supported it 64-30, Democrats favored it 82-13 and independents backed it 67-23.

Results like that could make you think this ought to be a no-brainer issue. But the NRA is bringing all of its considerable might to the table here, and that muscle is, so far, outweighing overwhelming public opinion.  

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.
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