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  • Shane Caraway

Illinois HB5855: Firearm Discrimination


Leftists in Illinois are attempting once again to veil their steady erosion of civil liberties behind the subjective symbolism of "gun safety." The Covid pandemic provided new tools in their evoling wheel house of amorphous messaging: the so-called "pandemic" of gun violence.


HB5855 is a bill that applies arbitrary definitions manufacted from the ignorant nightmares of Leftst politicians, the kind who claim to have PTSD from firing an AR-15 or believe that "ghost guns" have "the ability with a .30-caliber clip to disperse with 30 bullets within half a second. Thirty magazine clip in half a second." While hilarious, these artful displays of paranoid ignorance are supported by a plethora of pseudo-science, manufacted statistics, and revisionst historiography which I dissect in my podcast on this very subject.


I filed a Witness Slip and attached statement concerning HB5855 to be read in committee. I paste that statement here in its entirety.

 

HB5855 Opponent Shane Caraway


Ladies and Gentlemen of the Illinois General Assembly,

It is unfortunate that legislative debates persist concerning the steady but relentless corrosion of the rights of lawful citizens of Illinois in regard to firearm ownership. Proponents of HB5855 perpetuate the myth that criminals will follow additional firearm laws. While this paints a grim picture of the intellectual capacity of numerous elected representatives, the alternative is even more fatalistic: that lawmakers understand that HB5855 will not positively impact the so-called pandemic of gun violence, but that despite this knowledge, they rabidly pursue disarming the law-abiding population.


Appeals to Constitutionality have proven ineffectual against the pernicious onslaught of Illinois legislation. Illinois lawmakers have already evinced a clear disdain for the Bill of Rights and its protections enumerated to the American citizen. Gun laws are inherently discriminatory, effecting only the law-abiding portion of the population. Rationale to justify firearm impositions must necessarily be invented. The abolition of Second Amendment rights has become the new “states’ rights” mantra of the Democratic party with the blessing of other wayward politicians. Since the 1930s statistics detailing the fallibility of such laws and their ineffectiveness in reducing the actual causes of firearm-related homicides have been launched against the Iron Curtain of anti-2A legislation to no avail. Modern legislators discard natural rights theory, specifically the inherent right to self-defense by Illinois citizens in a manner not unlike Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau who declared famously: “you can't use a gun for self-protection in Canada, no you don't get that.” Illinois lawmakers align with Trudeau: among a litany of existing firearm regulations and control, proponents of HB5855 presume to decree to the lawful Illinois citizen: “No, you don’t get that.”


Proponents seek to redefine lawful citizens as felons through arbitrary and subjective legislation. Career criminals remain unaffected. The argument further defeats itself in the dogma of the most virulent anti-2A figures. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot routinely blames other states for the firearm murder rates in her city. She attributed 60% of all firearm-related crime to other states.[1] HB5855 attempts to further regulate firearms within the state. There is a clear dissonance not just on the validity of additional legislation, but on a presumption of positive effect. In his concurrent opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., INC. v. BRUEN (2022), Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito included a significant number of empirical sources supporting the positive effects of reducing restrictions against firearm ownership and public carry restrictions. See Appendix A.


With the apparent immunity of lawmakers against the Supreme Law of the United States and the axiomatic presumption of individual civil liberties, one is left to question motivation. I would ask the proponents of the bill: Why do you insist on using the lethal force of the State to imprison or fine a single mother in the inner city of Chicago who wishes to possess a firearm sufficient to defend herself and her children? Why do you insist so perniciously to disarm LGTBQ+ Illinoisans of the means to properly defend themselves from bigoted and prejudiced violence? Why do you insist with such relentlessness to deprive black Illinoisans of the right to self-defense, echoing the same rhetoric as the Democratic party in Postbellum America? You have already erected numerous financial barriers that prohibit the most oppressed and disadvantaged Illinoisans from defending themselves on equal footing with the ever-prevalent Illinois criminal; what is the motivation behind making it increasingly difficult for members of the BIPOC and LGTBQ+ communities to protect themselves, their families, and their loved ones? What drives the Illinois Assembly with the voracity of fanatic zealotry to continually disarm single mothers who wish to protect their children? How do you validate your sexism, transphobia, and misogyny? What about handicapped individuals whose impairments further disadvantage them against violent criminals? These are questions that need to be answered by HB5855 proponents who wish to impose the power of the State against law-abiding citizens.


In the recent Supreme Court decision, New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., inc. v. bruen (2022), the Hon. Justice Samuel Alito recognized the disparate impact of firearm legislation against disadvantaged but law-abiding citizens. “Some of these people live in high-crime neighborhoods,” Justice Alito explained in his concurrence. “Some must traverse dark and dangerous streets in order to reach their homes after work or other evening activities. Some are members of groups whose members feel especially vulnerable. And some of these people reasonably believe that unless they can brandish or, if necessary, use a handgun in the case of attack, they may be murdered, raped, or suffer some other serious injury.”[2] Though Justice Alito spoke directly of the citizens of New York and their right to carry a concealed weapon, the parallels to the situation confronted by law-abiding Illinoisans on a daily basis is self-evident. HB5855 goes beyond merely restricting the carrying of concealed weapons in the public; it invades the very home of every Illinois citizen and imposes limitations on their capacity for self-defense that are categorically and by definition not applied to the criminal element. No police force, no matter how well trained and funded, can guarantee the safety of twelve-million Illinoisans.


State legislators seek to enact similar controls to those once imposed on innocent black Americans during Reconstruction and shortly thereafter. Like their Democrat predecessors, these laws would necessarily reduce or eliminate the capacity of law-abiding BIPOC Illinoisans to exercise their right to self-defense. The only rationale to bypass this clear reality is to discard history and accept a priori that Illinoisans do not have a right to an adequate means of self-defense. Inseparable from this conclusion is that Illinois lawmakers supporting HB5855 intend to enforce a law that disproportionately disadvantages women, its BIPOC population, and members of the LGTBQ+ community.


This fact is made especially relevant given crime statistics and firearm purchasing trends. Black Illinoisans understand and embrace the self-defense capacity of firearms. A survey conducted by the NSSF found a 58.2% increase in firearm purchasing by black Americans generally.[3] The Black Gun Owners of American (BGOAA) boasts over thirty-thousand active members. Another organization, the Black Gun Owners Association (BGOA) also provides instruction, training, and education. The National African American Gun Association (NAAGA) spreads the positive message of black gun ownership to the entire nation. Illinois proudly hosts three NAAGA chapters, one in Chicago, one in Peoria, and a third in Zion. Their Chicago chapter, the 761st Gun Club of Illinois, provides firearms training, education, and information to help preserve the right to gun ownership in the black community especially. On its host website, the 761st Gun Club correctly aligns civil rights with self-defense and the Second Amendment. “We promote Americans taking the 2nd Amendment very seriously as a birth-given right that empowers the Black Community with the ability to protect itself and its interests,” the site asserts, “We are a Civil Rights Organization focused on equity and the preservation of our Community through armed protection, education and community building.”[4] They also rightly describe the Second Amendment as a support for black Americans, just as its protection is the right of all American citizens, including Illinoisans.


Stanmorr Sports in Bridgeview, IL., is the first black-owned shooting range in the state and among three in the nation. Black Americans are increasingly interested, informed, and educated in the safe use of firearms concomitant with their increased rate of firearm purchasing and ownership. LaShan Pettis, a firearms instructor at Stanmorr Sports, described the rising interest in firearm ownership by women and especially black women. “We have a lot of young women, black women in particular, who want to come in and learn how to use a firearm safely,” she explained to ABC 7, “also to be able to protect themselves and their family.”[5] More law-abiding Americans owning firearms to protect themselves, their families, and communities is a net positive for the state of Illinois.

Any legislation aimed at targeting law-abiding citizens for additional government restriction and imposition is legislation aimed at black Illinoisans. From 2011 to 2020, firearm homicides in Illinois nearly doubled at 99%, twenty points above the national average. Black Illinoisans are thirty-four-times more likely to be murdered with a firearm than whites.[6] The overwhelming majority of firearm homicides occur in counties with significant black populations, including Cook, DuPage, and Kane counties. As of 2019, Illinois boasted the second-highest rate of black homicides in the nation.[7] These surges in violence are left unchecked. Illinois legislators are held in thralldom to their anti-firearm myopia. Their fixation on restricting the right to self-defense by law-abiding Illinoisans only predisposes them to increased victimhood. Again, I ask: why do the proponents of HB5855 wish to increase the chances of black Illinoisans being murdered by criminal actors unaffected and apathetic to firearm legislation?

In April of 2020 the RAND Corporation conducted a massive analysis of various databases and research studies to ascertain the relationship between firearm ownership and citizen protection. They concluded that: “Policies that expand the number of gun owners or people carrying guns could deter violent crime if would-be attackers fear confrontations with armed victims” and that policies that provide for lawful possession of firearms “might make the consequences of violent crime less severe for victims if they are able to successfully use firearms to repel attackers.”[8] I ask again: why do Illinois legislators wish to deprive Illinoisans—most especially women and members of the BIPOC and LGTBQ+ communities—the advantages of access to proper methods to self-defense?

In 2013, President Barack Obama, native Illinoisan and former Illinois Senator, directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to compile a comprehensive analysis of defensive gun use. It concluded that Americans use their firearms in defense of themselves or others between 500,000 and 3,000,000 times every year, a fact that compelled the authors to note: “Defensive use of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence.”[9] What is the rationale for proponents of HB5855 that wish to prevent Illinoisans from contributing to the statistics of survivors instead of the harrowing growth of violent crime and homicide that has come to define Chicago especially?

The clearest error in HB5855 rests on its fallacious premise. The bill, and its proponents, anthropomorphize firearms and address them as sentient beings. Amorphous terms like “gun violence” and “gun deaths” obfuscate the fact that a firearm is amoral and inert. Behind every firearm death is a human operator. In this single-factor analysis, reducing the possession of firearms to law-abiding citizens would somehow correspond to a decrease in criminal homicide. To deride this calculus as reductionist and banal is a courtesy.

HB5855 rejects clear empirical data and negatively impacts exclusively law-abiding Illinoisans. Among the victims, minorities are disproportionately affected. BIPOC women living in the Southside of Chicago are told by proponents of this bill that they only have the right to defend themselves and their children with ten rounds, not thirty; with this firearm, but not the other one. LGTBQ+ individuals and couples are disallowed by HB5855 proponents of the right to defend themselves and their home with any shotgun that has a detachable magazine, relegating them to the inferior means afforded by internally-fed models. This bill proclaims to all Illinoisan that they do not have the right to defend themselves with modern firearms, the kind that criminals will possess and wield against the law-abiding citizen. Proponents say simply: “No, you don’t get that.”

While its truth is self-evident in the very nature of criminality, it bears mentioning that firearm legislation does not prevent criminal use of firearms. In a special report issued by the Department of Justice in 2019, fewer than 2% of convicted criminals used a firearm they legally purchased during the commission of a crime. Convicted felons who had acquired firearms used in crimes did not acquire them through lawful channels; 56% reported that they had stolen the weapon and another 43% purchased the firearm off an already-illegal black market. Another 7% found the firearm at the scene of the crime. Only 7% purchased the firearm legally through a licensed dealer and thus passed the requisite background check.[10] Shockingly, criminals continued to behave criminally despite firearm legislation.

It is not a myth that law-abiding citizens use firearms regularly to defend the lives of themselves and their family in Illinois and elsewhere. In 2019, a convicted felon carrying an illegal handgun fired on a Rockford resident; he returned fire, disabling one of the two assailants and preventing the felon from further using his own firearm. Also in 2019, a law-abiding homeowner fired a warning shot from his weapon to forewarn a home intruder. After a brief exchange, the intruder left; his accomplice lay hidden with a knife waiting to executive the homeowner, but fled along with the first assailant. Another man used his legal firearm to repel two assailants, one of whom brandished a firearm. In May of 2020, an assailant was shot by an innocent Illinoisan when he broke the door to an apartment and attempted entry. In July of 2020, a woman was protected from an estranged man who attempted to force his way into her home by removing an air conditioning unit from a window. A male in the residence shot the assailant whose intention was to commit violent acts against the female resident. Similar events are too numerous to recount, but form a respectable portion of a database operated by The Heritage Foundation that catalogues defensive firearm uses.[11]


The firearms targeted by HB5855 in particular are precisely those that best defend against multiple attackers and disadvantage criminals to the benefit of the law-abiding citizen. Weapon platforms based on the AR-15 are among the most popular for women due to its lighter weight, ease of use, high accuracy, and larger total magazine capacity. The defensive use of AR-styled rifles is a well-established fact (See Appendix B). HB5855 not only targets the weapons that are the safest and most efficient for defensive use, but further endanger Illinoisans with reduced magazine capacity. While a mass shooter is unperturbed with a change of magazine—considering such shootings occur in areas where the assailant has little or no fear of repercussion or duress—Illinoisans who find themselves in a self-defense scenario can afford no such luxury. In 2019, an eight-month-pregnant Floridian woman used an AR-15 against multiple armed assailants who had broken into her home and were assaulting her husband with a handgun. Her access to such a weapon meant that her life, the life of her husband, daughter, and unborn child were protected. If she had been compelled to change her magazine due to reduced capacity, a single fumble might have meant a family massacre. That Illinois already has some of the strictest firearm laws in the nation provides few opportunities for its inclusion with these kinds of feel-good stories; instead, Illinois victims are compelled by state law to join homicide statistics. HB5855 would deprive Illinoisans the opportunities to defend their families on equal footing in a situation where the best case scenario is that the assailant as at a disadvantage, not the victim.


Who are Illinois legislators to tell a single mother what means she is legally permitted to use to defend herself and her child from criminals or an assault by an estranged partner or lover? It is with respect to the Assembly that I pose this and other poignant questions, but also with a sincere belief in the supremacy of the rights of Illinoisans that I offer condemnations and—at times—accusations. Firearm restrictions favor the criminal over the law-abiding Illinoisan.


The right of Illinoisans to live and defend themselves and their loved ones is superordinate to whatever flawed conceptions or assertions are held by Illinois legislators. Any and all firearm policies, restrictions, and even taxes target and harm minority Illinoisans more than any other demographic. If the clear message of empirical evidence is insufficient, when just consideration of Constitutionality and the Bill of Rights fall on the deaf ears of Illinois politicians, let the desperate plea of law-abiding citizens who wish only to defend themselves with sufficient means direct the discourse on HB5855. As it stands, the only conversation being had by proponents is how to target and oppress law-abiding citizens and especially vulnerable minority groups with additional burdensome legislation that would only serve to strengthen the substantial criminal element in the State of Illinois. We want Illinoisans to join the statistics of survivors, not victims. HB5855 only helps guarantee the latter.



 

Appendix A: Note 1 From Concurrent Opinion by Justice Alito


1. The dissent makes no effort to explain the relevance of most of the incidents and statistics cited in its introductory section (post, at 1–8) (opinion of Breyer, J.). Instead, it points to studies (summarized later in its opinion) regarding the effects of “shall issue” licensing regimes on rates of homicide and other violent crimes. I note only that the dissent’s presentation of such studies is one-sided. See RAND Corporation, Effects of Concealed-Carry Laws on Violent Crime (Apr. 22, 2022), https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/concealed-carry/violent-crime-html; see also Brief for William English et al. as Amici Curiae 3 (“The overwhelming weight of statistical analysis on the effects of [right-to-carry] laws on violent crime concludes that RTC laws do not result in any statistically significant increase in violent crime rates”); Brief for Arizona et al. as Amici Curiae 12 (“[P]opulation-level data on licensed carry is extensive, and the weight of the evidence confirms that objective, non-discriminatory licensed-carry laws have two results: (1) statistically significant reductions in some types of violent crime, or (2) no statistically significant effect on overall violent crime”); Brief for Law Enforcement Groups et al. as Amici Curiae 12 (“[O]ver the period 1991–2019 the inventory of firearms more than doubled; the number of concealed carry permits increased by at least sevenfold,” but “murder rates fell by almost half, from 9.8 per 100,000 people in 1991 to 5.0 per 100,000 in 2019” and “[v]iolent crimes plummeted by over half ”).


SOURCE: New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., INC. v. BRUEN. 2022. Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Concurrent Opinion, Note 1. Available Online: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/20-843#writing-20-843_OPINION_4.


Appendix B: Defensive Use of AR-Styled Platforms

SOURCE: Swearer, Amy. “8 Times Law-Abiding Citizens Saved Lives With an AR-15.” The Daily Signal. March 14, 2008.


1. Harris County, Texas (2013)


A 15-year-old boy saved both his life and the life of his 12-year-old sister by fending off a pair of home invaders with his father’s AR-15.


2. Rochester, New York (2013)


Two armed burglars retreated from a college student’s apartment after coming face-to-face with an unloaded AR-15. The rifle itself instilled enough fear to cause them to flee.


3. Ferguson, Missouri (2014)


During the Ferguson, Missouri, riots, nearly all businesses within a particular 2-square-mile area of the city were looted or destroyed—except for one. African-American men guarded the gas station and convenience store of a white friend from looters and rioters. They did so armed with an AR-15, a MAC-10 “machine pistol,” and a variety of handguns.


4. Houston, Texas (2017)


A target of a drive-by shooting successfully fended off the attack by using his legally owned AR-15 against his three armed attackers. He was able to hit all three men in the moving vehicle.


5. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (2017)


A homeowner’s 19-year-old son used an AR-15 to defend himself against three would-be burglars who broke into the home in broad daylight. The 19-year-old was later determined to have acted in justifiable self-defense.


6. Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017)


After a gunman opened fire on congregants inside First Baptist Church, a man living near the place of worship grabbed his AR-15 and engaged the shooter. The shooter subsequently dropped his own firearm and fled the scene as the courageous neighbor pursued him.


7. Oswego, Illinois (2018)


A man with an AR-15 intervened to stop a neighbor’s knife attack on a pregnant woman. The rifle’s “intimidation factor” was credited as a reason why the attacker dropped his knife.


8. Catawba County, Illinois (2018)


After his 17-year-old relative successfully used his own firearm to fend off three would-be robbers who attacked him in the driveway of his home, a man used his AR-15 to stop a threat from one of the would-be robber’s upset family members.


SOURCES:

[1] Lightfoot, Lori. [LoriLightfoot]. (2019, September 2). 60% of illegal firearms recovered in Chicago come from outside IL [Tweet]. Retrieved: https://twitter.com/LoriLightfoot/status/1168689083478097922?s=20&t=vh-L7kkrDV4TdgjV7TgQEw. [2] New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., INC. v. BRUEN. 2022. Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Concurrent Opinion, Note 1. Available Online: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/20-843#writing-20-843_OPINION_4. [3] NSSF FIREARM RETAILER SURVEY. July 2020. Available Online: https://www.nssf.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/InfographicCustomerDemosJuly2020.pdf [4] 761st Gun Club. Home Page. https://www.761stgunclub.com/. [5] Holmes, Evelyn. “Illinois' 1st Black-owned gun range offers inclusive community for shooting enthusiasts.” ABC7 Eyewitness News. February 11, 2021. Available Online: https://abc7chicago.com/stanmoor-sports-illinois-gun-range-black-owned-bridgeview/10331760/ [6] Gun Violence in Illinois. Everytown for Gun Safety Fact Sheet. Everytownresearch.org. April, 2020. Available Online: https://maps.everytownresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Every-State-Fact-Sheet-2.0-042720-Illinois.pdf. [7] “Black Homicide Victimization in the United States An Analysis of 2019 Homicide Data.” Violence Policy Center. July, 2022. Available Online: https://vpc.org/studies/blackhomicide22.pdf. [8] RAND Corporation. “How Gun Policies Affect Violent Crime.” April 2022. Available Online: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/violent-crime.html. [9] Institute of Medicine. 2013. Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/18319. [10]Mariel Alper, Ph.D., and Lauren Glaze. “Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes: Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016.” Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. January 2019. NCJ 251776. Available Online: https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/suficspi16.pdf. [11] The Heritage Foundation. “Defensive Gun Uses in the U.S.” November 15, 2022. Accessed 12/10/2022. Available Online: https://datavisualizations.heritage.org/firearms/defensive-gun-uses-in-the-us/.


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