In the case of anti-gun Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, I believe it’s both.
Even though it would be unnecessary, ineffective, unpopular and unconstitutional, Emanuel has called on the Illinois legislature to impose handgun registration in the state.
I suppose he may have forgotten that gun control has become a losing political issue. Just ask Al Gore. Since Gore’s stand against gun owners’ rights in 2000 doomed his bid for the White House, even politicians with lifelong anti-gun records, like John Kerry and Barack Obama, have tried to convince the voters they support the Second Amendment. I suppose being elected mayor has provided Emanuel with the courage to let his true anti-gun positions take center stage.
Emanuel’s proposal would require every person who buys a handgun to pay a $65 fee and provide the make, model and serial number to the state authorities. The same would go for people who already own handguns, although for the first 90 days the fee would be “only” $33. Call it a fire sale on your Second Amendment rights.
Actually, I should say, “every law-abiding person who buys a handgun legally” would be subject to the law, since no one—not even Emanuel himself—could actually think that the thugs and criminals who roam Chicago’s streets are going to comply.
How will all this play out? In Illinois, gun issues are more regional than partisan, with most downstate legislators from both parties standing in support of the Second Amendment, while most Chicago and suburban politicians oppose gun owners’ rights. This has played itself out many times, most recently over efforts to have Illinois join the other 49 states by legalizing some way to carry firearms outside the home for self-defense.
While gun owners have not won that battle yet, the movement has been in the right direction. That fact makes Emanuel’s new proposal all the more ridiculous. Even in Illinois, with its harsh gun laws, support for the Second Amendment is rising.
Of course, the claimed need for gun registration is to track the origins of guns used by Chicago gangs. But Emanuel surely knows that these guns are not coming from law-abiding gun owners in Peoria or Springfield. Even if the state passed gun registration, Emanuel—like his New York City counterpart, Michael Bloomberg—would inevitably claim that out-of-state gunrunners are supplying criminals in his city, then demand passage of national gun registration.
But gun owners should remember that while Emanuel and other anti-gun politicians will always claim their schemes are needed to fight crime, their real goal for decades has been to ban gun ownership. The real question is what we can do to stop them.
The answer is that the best defense is a good offense. And even in deep blue Illinois, gun owners are making advances. For example, in 2011 we won passage of a law that protects the privacy of Firearms Owner Identification card holders, a small but important step forward.
More significantly, a right-to-carry bill gained clear, bipartisan majority support in the Illinois House of Representatives last year, but narrowly stumbled over a procedural hurdle that required a three-fifths majority for passage.
In response, the House created a task force (including lawmakers, gun owners’ representatives, law enforcement officials and gun control advocates) to study the effects of right-to-carry laws in other states. That’s an important first step toward a major right-to-carry debate that may be going on in the legislature by the time you read this article.
Illinois’ lesson for American gun owners is clear. Whether the changes are small or large, by winning passage of pro-Second Amendment reforms in Illinois—and across the nation—we can send a strong message to Emanuel and other politicians like him who don’t want to face the hard work and the political cost it would take to clean up their cities.
Chris W. Cox is the Executive Director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action and serves as the organization’s chief lobbyist. Please give your support to NRA-ILA today by going to www.NRAILA.org/donate.