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Miller: Cullerton shrugs over need for concealed-carry bill

Updated: June 28, 2013 6:15AM



Gov. Pat Quinn has loved to hold Sunday news conferences for decades. He discovered a long time ago that Sunday was usually a slow news day, so a news conference pretty much guaranteed coverage in Monday’s newspapers.

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 (D-Chicago) said something pretty important that was completely ignored by the media.

Cullerton appeared that Sunday with Quinn, state Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) and parents of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre victims to tout a ban on high-capacity gun magazines that 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,” he said.

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

So what was the big news that was missed?

“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 (concealed carry) 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 know, a federal appeals court has given Illinois until June 9 to pass a state law allowing concealed carry. If not, Illinois’ current law will be struck down.

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 get through the General Assembly.

The statement was also somewhat of a cover for Cullerton’s inability to move a concealed-carry bill out of the Senate a few days before. Top sources said two of House Speaker Michael Madigan’s strongest Senate allies flipped from supporting Cullerton’s bill to opposing it.

The sponsor, state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and Cullerton both blamed the NRA. But it was Madigan (D-Chicago) who actually killed it.

Why? Madigan did not want the Senate bill to pass because he believed it would undermine support for the House 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 Madigan passed a concealed-carry bill through the House on Friday, Cullerton said he could see ways to compromise, but he also blasted parts of the House 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.

So, if Madigan’s radical local pre-emption language on all gun ordinances were removed, the rest of the bill would be a whole lot more acceptable. Offering up a completely unacceptable and even outrageous demand to get the other side to accept some things they might not otherwise is a pretty standard legislative negotiating tactic.

And if they can’t come to an agreement? Well, Cullerton has said 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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