By Jim Bowman
Questioned at a Nov. 20 meeting in Oak Park about hunting with his son to get a deer, NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde responded in matter-of-fact manner, "Oh yeah, Bambi makes good sausage!"
This was a different kind of Oak Park meeting. An Oak Park woman, perhaps reporting for the League of Woman Voters, worried aloud about being booed but wasn't. She asked a question "from the other side," explaining that the law is not what she wanted, "but it's the law."
"It's also a right," said a man sitting near her — quietly, without booing.
Vandermyde had been introduced by Rep. La Shawn Ford as a friend, one of those in Springfield "who smile at you even if you don't vote his way" — as Ford did not in July when concealed-carry became the law of the state. Vandermyde was there to explain the state's concealed-carry law.
The audience, at the Little Red Wagon coffee shop on Oak Park Avenue, consisted almost entirely of gun owners or wannabe owners, many of them black, eager to know the ins and outs of ownership, use, and carrying.
To carry, said Vandermyde, "changes your life," affecting how you dress and walk and in general comport yourself. "Forever," interjected a man in the audience quietly.
As for use, Illinois law is "very broad" as to using deadly force. "You can protect yourself and the person next to you." Illinois is not a "retreat state," he explained. Nor was it ever. The endangered Illinoisan never was required to turn and run.
The state law does not exempt municipalities, Vandermyde pointed out. Restrictions apply, "as they do to any right." The gun-owner and -carrier must be 21, without felony conviction or history of mental illness, or pattern of violent misdemeanor convictions, etc., and must take 16 hours training from a state police-certified instructor, scoring a 70% hit rate on the range.
Several complained about the (steep) $150 fee for the license (in addition to the cost of the also-high 16-hour instruction requirement). "It's the price Madigan wanted," said Vandermyde. "The Chicago Machine still has power to decide things. But we are whittling away at it." Senate President Cullerton was not adamant in such matters, he said. Oak Park's Don Harmon was.
Vandermyde and Ford are allies in a different gun-related matter, the proposed mandatory three-year sentencing (HB 2265) for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, defined in part as simply possessing a loaded gun "either on your person or in your vehicle, when you are not on your land, your residence, or your fixed place of business," when the gun is "uncased, loaded, and immediately accessible" or "ammunition [is] immediately accessible," and loaded or not, "the person possessing it did not have a Firearm Owner's Identification Card (FOID)."
Gov. Quinn opposes it too. It's Mayor Emanuel's idea.
And what does this expert think about it? I'm with La Shawn Ford and his friend Todd of the NRA.
Jim Bowman's blog can be found at OakPark.com.