Illinois gun owners have gotten the shaft for far too long.
The Land of Lincoln has long been known as the last state where concealed carry is not allowed, and although that may soon change, it wouldn't be surprising to see state legislators shuffling their feet.
Even though the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the concealed carry ban unconstitutional, the Illinois House of Representatives continues to push anti-gun legislation. In fact, one bill proposing a ban on semi-automatic firearms was approved by the House just this week.
On Wednesday, gun owners from across the state gathered in Springfield, Ill., for Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day to make sure their voices were heard loud and clear. Sponsored by the Illinois State Rifle Association, thousands of gun owners braved the cold weather and flooded the streets as they marched to the State Capitol, demanding Illinois residents — regardless of whether they live in Chicago or downstate — be granted the same Second Amendment rights guaranteed to the rest of the United States.
The mood was calm and civil, but it was apparent this was a crowd that was sick of being held down by seemingly disconnected lawmakers.
"All of my life, I was a shooter," said gun activist and Springfield resident Tom Shafer, who led the crowd in a series of chants as they made their way to the Capitol. "The government — except for the Vietnam draft — never put a gun in my hand, never assisted me in being a shooter, never assisted me in being a marksman, never helped me defend my home. Far-away, far-off, outgunned, undermanned police, they never helped me a bit; I did it all on my own. And now for a government to try to say 30 rounds is too many?"
Shafer went on to say any limitations on magazine capacity open the door for legislators to call for even more limitations.
"Any government that could say 30 rounds is too many and says 10 rounds is enough, the next year they could say five rounds is enough," Shafer said. "And the year after that, they could say, 'Oh, we decided two rounds is enough.' ... I'm going to keep my magazines for that exact reason. It's my safety, defense — I am my own first responder. And if I do that with a 30-round magazine — if I do it with a 50-round magazine — it's none of the government's business how I defend my home."
The solution, Shafer said, is to target criminals — not law-abiding citizens.
"Tell the government, keep the drugs out of our society and keep the criminals locked up, and I won't have to have a 30-round magazine," Shafer said. "We'll see how that works out for them."
Gun owners across the nation should take a tip.
Now more than ever, gun rights are under attack on a federal and state level. Some terrorist will claim innocent lives, and law-abiding citizens are the ones who pay for it. Too often, we find ourselves screaming at a TV or computer screen over some anti-gun rhetoric, but we do nothing more than write a few nasty comments on a web forum. Ask yourself, what difference does that make? Will some lawmaker really log on and say, "Gee, that user is right; I should really change my anti-gun ways"?
Don't stop by just expressing your thoughts on some web forum — get out there and do something. Make sure your lawmakers are aware of your presence, and put the pressure on them to support their constituents.
After Illinois' last two governors, Rod Blagojevich and John Ryan, received federal prison sentences, activists are less likely to trust the state's judgment, as evidenced by one activists' sign.
Springfield, Ill., gun activist Tom Shafer was on hand to lead the crowd from the Prairie Capital Convention Center to the State Capitol a few blocks away.
The cold weather didn't seem to bother the thousands of gun owners who came to show their support, marching down Capitol Avenue with a Springfield Police escort.
Gun owners make their way to the Capitol lawn.
While Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn made his budget address to a joint General Assembly, gun owners on the Capitol lawn made their voices loud and clear.
On March 5, the day before the march, the Illinois House of Representatives voted in favor of amendments that would ban semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity magazines — one of which would make a felon of anyone possessing "military-type assault weapons."
The passage of such anti-gun legislation only seemed to bolster the crowd as they demanded concealed carry for all Illinoisans — even Chicago residents.
Several activists urged other gun owners across the nation — not just in Illinois — to stand up for their Second Amendment rights in a similar fashion.
Even man's best friend came out to support man's best right.
Standing before a statue of Springfield's favorite son, Abraham Lincoln, gun owners called on President Barack Obama to stand up for the Bill of Rights as stated in his inaugural oath.