9-30-09 Hyatt Regency, Chicago Illinois State Rifle Association news conference with attorneys Alan Gura and David Sigale on U.S, Supreme Court announcement that it will review the Chicago gun ban. Richard Pearson, pres. of the Illinois State Rifle Association talks at the press conference. [Keith Hale/Sun-Times]
Updated: August 5, 2013 6:31PM
It only seems like Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, and yours truly, unreconstructed gun controller, are from different planets.
Actually, we share a common geographic bond that I mentioned to him on the phone the other day.
Pearson lives in Chatsworth, milepost 40 on the old Toledo, Peoria & Western Railroad, which runs through central Illinois like a belt across the state’s midsection.
That places Chatsworth, population 1,204, exactly 40 miles west of the Indiana border, about midway between Gilman (Milepost 25) and Fairbury (Milepost 52).
Working my way through college as a yard clerk on the TP&W, I needed to memorize all the rail junctions from Effner, Ind. (0), to Keokuk, Iowa (224).
My own hometown was 60 miles due west of Chatsworth in Washington (Milepost 100), and three generations of my family have made a living running trains across those tracks that are in sight of Pearson’s office, a fourth generation now in training.
That’s a long wind-up to make the point that Pearson and those who share his beliefs about gun rights are not as foreign to me as one might think from reading my own liberal views.
It was for that reason that I felt compelled to disagree with an aide to Gov. Pat Quinn this week who observed that “everyone” would see the wisdom of the governor’s effort to write tougher restrictions into a bill to allow concealed guns to be carried in public in Illinois.
No, as a matter of fact, while I mostly agreed with the governor’s take, I realized that a whole bunch of people in this state would see it quite differently, which is the main reason Quinn’s rewrite is headed for defeat.
The ranks of those who believe they should be able to carry a gun for protection outside the home are many — and not so easily brushed off as NRA zealots. They’re people I have known my whole life.
And as bizarre as I find the notion that more guns on the street will make the world a safer place, it’s as axiomatic to them as brushing your teeth is a good way to prevent tooth decay.
Plus, I realize this is not just some Downstate thing either. While Downstate is where gun owners get their political clout, we have no shortage of gun lovers in the city, although I believe the rest of us here have them pretty well out-numbered for the moment.
Surely, this argument has been taking place since Illinois ceased being the frontier, and its residents started congregating in towns and cities.
The strangest part is how Illinois managed to become the last state in the nation without any provision to allow members of the public to carry a gun, not that the distinction ever bothered me in the least.
Having fought so long to get such a law, though, it was clear the gun crowd was not going to give an inch to Quinn.
Quinn’s idea to ban guns from restaurants that serve alcohol? Not necessary, Pearson argued. Guns already will be banned from bars, and restaurants can voluntarily ban guns by posting a sign, he said. Plus, gun owners question why they should give up their right to protect themselves when they go out to eat.
The problem with Quinn’s plan to limit gun owners to carrying one concealed gun with one ammunition clip containing no more than 10 rounds? “With criminals, they’re not under such restrictions,” argued Pearson.
Or Quinn’s demand that guns be “completely concealed” from public view instead of “mostly concealed”? “If you’re wearing a sweater [over a gun] and reach up to grab something, you could be in trouble for that,” Pearson said.
For each of the governor’s changes, Pearson offered a riposte.
Sometimes I think those of us who move about the city and state regularly with no thought of bringing weaponry of any kind are lots braver than your typical gun owner.
While we were talking, Pearson recalled the day a trainman from the TP&W hopped off one of the freight engines in Chatsworth and marched right over to join the NRA.
I only hope it wasn’t any member of my family.