June 9, 2013
Rushing the state complicates concealed carry
Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons became an overnight folk hero to many people last week when he approved concealed carry in the county, effective immediately.
We appreciate his frustration with the state, which is taking its sweet time to comply with a federal court order allowing concealed carry. Still, we think Gibbons' action complicates things more than it helps.
The rules he proposed are more lax than the bill awaiting the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn. How is that going to work when the state law eventually does go into effect?
And if a State Police trooper stops a motorist on Illinois 159 who is carrying a gun, the state said he will be arrested. The officer is not going to accept the explanation, "Gibbons said it was OK."
Telling people they can carry a gun in Madison County is like telling a kid he can ride his bike in the cul-de-sac. It sounds great at first, but it's extremely limiting.
The thing that needs to happen immediately is for Gov. Pat Quinn to sign the concealed carry bill. The state just got a 30-day extension to comply with the federal court's order. But the longer this drags on, the more people are going to act on their own.
June 9, 2013
The (Alton) Telegraph
Walking fine line of concealed carry
So, when does a citizen have a right to bear arms? It depends on whom you ask.
The issue has long been a murky one in Illinois, and it got cloudier still back in December when a federal court issued a ruling declaring unconstitutional the state's ban on carrying concealed weapons. As part of that ruling, the court gave the Legislature 180 days to draft a pertinent bill, allowing weapons to be carried, within limits. The General Assembly did just that and sent a bill to the governor late last month.
The governor, of course, is famous for taking extraordinary lengths to review legislation and he's in no hurry to sign this one. Such is his deliberation that the state's attorney general asked the courts for a 30-day stay of enforcement of its court order, which gives Illinois until July 9 to comply.
The court of appeals is intent on Illinois eventually having a law that dictates exactly when and how citizens can carry weapons in public settings. Even if the governor signs the measure he now has, it would not take hold for another six months.
Thus, prosecutors are being forced to come up with some opinions of their own, to address things in the interim. One of the most prominent of those decisions occurred right here in Madison County, last week, when State's Attorney Thomas Gibbons laid out a series of seven conditions that all must be met in order for a citizen to legally carry concealed weapons.
The provisions are not exactly exhaustive but they serve a purpose - and that is to provide guidance to law enforcement. Police, of course, are the ones who must make the call as to whether a gun incident is an arrest-worthy offense.
Gibbons' seven rules are crystal clear and in writing for anyone who wishes to read them. Among them are valid firearms identification, self defense consideration, lack of criminal record, complete cooperation with law enforcement and more. He said his office will not prosecute law-abiding residents if they meet all the rules. Not one or two. All seven.
The right to arms, of course, is granted in the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but the law has been equally guarded and scrutinized, tinkered with every so often so as to protect the general population from unscrupulous gun users, while at the same protecting our freedoms. The result is, a right granted by our forefathers has become so watered down as to leave it open to vast interpretation.
That said, don't expect gun debates to go away, even after concealed carry becomes the law in Illinois.
June 9, 2013
(Decatur) Herald and Review
Lawmakers still living a fiscal fantasy
Generally ignored in the General Assembly's adjournment at the end of May was the legislature's action on a state budget.
The budget that will soon land on Gov. Pat Quinn's desk calls for total general fund spending of about $35.4 billion. That's $2 billion, or about 3 percent, more than the budget for the current fiscal year.
Public education and higher education will receive basically the same funding, and there is no plan to close prisons or other state facilities in the budget.
But there's also a lot that's troubling about the new budget. The most troubling is that it appears the state is continuing to live beyond its means.
The General Assembly added about $2 billion to the spending plan when April tax revenues increased by about $1 billion. Legislators seemed to believe that one month was a trend and increased revenue estimates would continue for the fiscal year. Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka thinks April was a one-time anomaly, but the General Assembly didn't listen.
Instead of using the unexpected tax revenues to pay off its debt, the General Assembly decided to buy some shiny new toys.
The Department of Transportation budget included $71 million to finish purchasing the land for an airport in Peotone, according to Crain's political columnist Greg Hinz. The necessity of a third Chicago-area airport is certainly questionable. If one is needed, locating it 50 miles from downtown Chicago doesn't seem to be the best plan. Finally, if you're broke, building a new airport is a really, really bad idea.
There's also a plan to allow $70 million in borrowing for a new stadium for DePaul University, which is a private institution. DePaul will contribute another $70 million to the hotel/stadium project. But doesn't the Chicago area already have enough stadiums and arenas to house DePaul athletics?
This new budget is brought to you by the same political leaders who imposed a 67 percent increase on our income taxes in 2011. That "temporary" tax is supposed to sunset at the end of 2014. But how do you end that tax when any extra money gets spent immediately? How can taxes be returned to their usual level, if the state keeps spending more money?
The answer is: you can't. That's why it's likely that all or part of the "temporary" tax increase will become permanent.
Voters can stop that from happening, but it will require close questions of our elected representatives now, during the 2014 elections.
June 9, 2013
Rockford Register Star
Beware of FCC snooping into your local media
Should the government investigate how local newspapers and other media cover the news?
Should Uncle Sam probe what, how and why issues are covered?
Should the government conduct secret interviews with folks to get their opinions on whether reporters are properly reporting on the comings and goings of communities of color?
That is exactly what the Federal Communications Commission is up to, the Michigan Press Association says:
"In order to 'examine how the media ecosystem operates to provide critical information,' the FCC announced May 24 that it plans to research how existing media outlets are meeting the 'critical information needs' of local communities.
"The planned research will center principally on a detailed 'content analysis' drawn from samples of local media content. The research design calls for 26 media content samples to be pulled over the course of seven months."
The 26 content areas include city, county, state and federal government, politics and campaigns, consumer news, hard and soft news about the events in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the war on terror in general.
The study calls for "qualitative analysis" of stories, including confidential interviews with people in targeted markets.
Said the FCC: "The commission needs to conduct or commission research that illuminates the diversity of views available to local communities, the diversity of sources in local markets and the diversity of critical information needs of the American public, including women and minorities."
We thought the FCC only regulated broadcast radio and television, and not much of that after the Fairness Doctrine was repealed, but this study proposal would analyze the content of all media (click here to find the May 24 news release).
The First Amendment says the government cannot inhibit freedom of speech or freedom of the press. And while the FCC proposes at this point to only study local news media, we can assume there will be a Step 2 in which the FCC recommends putting their study into effect. Step 3, of course, means regulations.
We don't trust the FCC to be unbiased. More likely, the FCC will want to make the media more receptive to printing whatever line the government is dishing out today. Thomas Jefferson would be appalled. Our third president said that if he were given the choice of living in a country with government and no newspapers or one with newspapers and no government, he would choose the latter.
When "Big Brother is watching" over reporters' and editors' shoulders, freedom of the press will be gone, and our liberty with it.