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Thursday, May 30, 2013 12:04 pm

More intricate politics behind carry law

Gov. Pat Quinn has loved to hold Sunday press conferences for decades. He discovered a long time ago that newspapers were desperate for stories on Sundays, so a Sunday press conference pretty much guaranteed coverage in Monday’s editions.

The problem, though, is that newspapers and other media outlets tend to send younger, less experienced reporters to Sunday events. And sometimes those reporters miss something that others might catch.

For instance, two Sundays ago, Senate President John Cullerton said something pretty important that was completely ignored by the media.

Cullerton appeared that Sunday with Gov. Quinn, state Sen. Dan Kotowski and parents of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre victims to tout a ban on high-capacity gun magazines which can hold more than 10 rounds. Cullerton highlighted his anti-gun bonafides during his opening remarks. “I’m very proud of the fact that Illinois has been the only state in the nation that doesn’t allow for concealed guns to be carried in public,” Cullerton said.

But that wasn’t what went unnoticed because it wasn’t news. Throughout his long political career, Cullerton has always been a staunch opponent of the National Rifle Association. He doesn’t love guns at all. Nothing to see there. Move along.

But, like I said, the big news was ignored.

“In the case of concealed carry, some say we have to pass a bill,” Cullerton told Chicago reporters.

“The fact of the matter is, if we don’t pass a bill in Springfield, the City of Chicago, County of Cook, 208 home rule units can pass their own legislation. So, while we should pass a sensible bill to regulate it statewide, if we don’t, it’s not the end of the world.”

It was the clearest statement yet from Cullerton that not passing a concealed carry bill might be the best way to go.

As you already know, a federal appellate court has given Illinois until June 9 to pass a new public carry law. If not, all of Illinois’ current carry laws will be struck down as unconstitutional on that date.

At first, liberals were being stampeded into passing new legislation. But Chicago’s mayor and his legislative allies have lately made it quietly known that not passing a bill might not be so bad. Chicago could pass a much stricter proposal than anything that could ever receive the General Assembly’s imprimatur, for instance.

The statement was also somewhat of a cover for Cullerton’s inability to move a concealed carry bill out of his Senate a few days before. According to very top sources, two of House Speaker Michael Madigan’s strongest Senate allies flipped from supporting the Senate president’s bill to opposed, which kept it from being passed. The sponsor, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, and Cullerton both blamed the National Rifle Association, with Raoul saying that the “extremists have won.” But it was Madigan who actually killed it.

Why did he kill it? Well, Madigan did not want the Senate’s bill to pass, believing it would undermine support for his own chamber’s bill among liberals and Chicagoans. He also believed that the Senate’s far more restrictive bill could not pass the House, so killing that measure was a way to avoid gridlock.

After Speaker Madigan passed a concealed carry bill through his House this past Friday, Cullerton said he could see ways to compromise, but he also blasted parts of the bill as “offensive” and said he was “violently opposed” to them.

The main thing Cullerton objected to was a provision that would kill off all local gun control ordinances, including Chicago’s assault weapons ban. Madigan said he believed the proposal was needed to make all laws the same throughout the state. Cullerton said that locals should absolutely have the ability to write their own gun ordinances, but said he would agree to a single statewide standard for concealed carry.

So, if Madigan’s quite radical local preemption language on all gun ordinances was removed, the rest of the bill would be a whole lot more acceptable. Offering up a completely unacceptable and even outrageous demand in order to get the other side to accept some things that they might not normally otherwise agree to is a pretty standard negotiating tactic.

And if they can’t come to an agreement? Well, Cullerton has already said that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if nothing happens and the state law is struck down. If he’s telling the truth, it gives him a pretty good negotiating stance.

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

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