MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Judicial activism turns deadly in handgun ruling
With all the talk of finally advancing gun control nationally after the massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut, the hard reality of the power of the gun industry, the NRA, and the right wing is sinking in.
Illinois is the last state in the Union that does not allow the carrying of concealed handguns (although the laws in the other 49 states differ as to what requirements are allowed to carry handguns in public). The Land of Lincoln has been the lone holdout largely due to a long-term activist group, the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, that has built up a constituency for gun control and strong political advocates.
In fact, until the Supreme Court ruling striking down the Chicago freeze on handgun ownership passed in the '80s (handguns registered with the city prior to the law passed under Mayor Jayne Byrne were grand fathered as legal as long as they were re-registered), Illinois was the only state that had six municipalities that banned handguns entirely. In fact, it was the only state that had any cities that banned handguns.
But all that changed when the GOP partisan Supreme Court struck down the Chicago freeze on handguns in June of 2010, reversing a lower federal court ruling, by the usual 5-4 Scalia-led vote. It's important to remember amidst this judicial exercise in activist lawmaking from the bench that Chicago allowed the registration of rifles, including shotguns, even after the prohibition of new handgun ownership. Heck, it was even legal during that handgun freeze period to register a sniper rifle.
Why are handguns often singled out by gun control advocates? Because in urban areas, they account for the vast majority of gun homicides. The handguns used in urban areas are frequently purchased from loosely regulated gun shops and gun shows in suburban areas. It has been charged that gun manufacturers take into account, in designing and manufacturing new firearms, the urban "aftermarket" when projecting profits.
I know much about this personally, going back to the first courageous ban on handguns in the middle class suburb of Morton Grove, Illinois, in the early '80s, because for many years I was the chairman or president of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. I remember the whole unfolding of the political and cultural battle to keep the state legislature of Illinois from falling prey to the NRA juggernaut.
This bit of background information brings us to a very recent decision by a three-judge panel of the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. It ruled, in a fit of judicial activism, to force the Illinois legislature to pass a concealed carry law. Yes, you read that right.
Now, Illinois currently has a pro-gun control governor and both state houses have a veto proof Democratic majority (although some Democrats vote with the NRA, they are not of sufficient numbers to pass a concealed carry law in Illinois). Therefore, despite repeated NRA and Illinois State Rifle Association attempts, the chance of a concealed carry bill becoming law based on a vote of the legislature, or signed by the governor, is slim to none. But an activist federal judicial bench is now requiring the legislature to let the gun guys loose with handguns around the state.
The Illinois Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan was rebuffed by the full Seventh Circuit Court on February 22nd to have the case heard "en banc" (by the full group of presiding judges in the Seventh Circuit). This means Madigan is left with either instructing the legislature to pass a law to allow the carrying of handguns in Illinois or appeal to a Supreme Court that is likely either not to hear the appeal or to affirm the judicial activism of forcing a legislature to allow handgun carrying by a likely right wing 5-4 vote.
While many nationally predicted a surge of gun control after the bloodshed of children and teachers in Sandy Hook, the gun industry and gun lobby still have their power at many levels of government.
The United States has long had embedded in its body politic a cancer of gun worshippers wielding a cultish power -- with the financial backing of the gun industry – over making America into a gun supermarket for the world.
That has resulted in a yearly toll of gun homicides, suicides, and accidents that in one year alone far exceeds by several multiples US deaths due to terrorism over the past three decades, and even stretching further back.
Illinois is about to be the last domino to fall when it comes to gun zealots carrying handguns in public and into public buildings – not to mention possibly on mass transit and into hospitals.
It is tragically ironic that one of the few things that actually can be described as "American Exceptionalism" is our pathological obsession with perpetuating policies that have turned this nation into a shooting gallery.