ISRA's Pearson warns gun rights may slip through loophole
Richard A. Pearson, Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) executive director, is warning members that what he calls a flaw in the state constitution could make things harder for lawful gun owners.
In a bulletin sent to members Jan. 3, Pearson spoke out against Senate Bill 337, lamenting although outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner indicated he planned to veto the bill that would require licensed gun dealers to be certified through the state police, he might be out of office before he gets the chance.
“SB 337 could survive the 100th General Assembly even though it is not supposed to,” Pearson wrote. “The reason for this is a flaw in the Illinois Constitution. The term used is 'sine die,' which means all [pending] legislation will die upon adjournment of the General Assembly."
In a quirk brought on by the calendar, Pearson said, chances are the new General Assembly will be sworn in before the new governor.
“Normally, that is not a big deal, but this year it is,” Pearson added. “The reason it is going to be a big deal, at least for gun owners, is because of SB337.”
Pearson worries that a “hold” could be placed on the bill long enough for Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, to be sitting in the Governor’s Mansion poised to sign off on it by the time the legislation actually makes it through Springfield.
“The question is this: Can the new General Assembly certify a bill it has not passed?” Pearson said. “The Illinois Constitution of 1970 does not address that question. The Illinois Constitution simply says it must be certified by the General Assembly. The reason is simply that the Framers of the Constitution never foresaw this problem.”
In this instance, Pearson said, it all boils down to politics.
“The idea of a hold was to work out technical issues in a bill,” he added. “In this case the hold was used for political advantage which is not nice but, nevertheless, that is how it was used and there is no prohibition against it. The courts may have to decide that one.”
In the meantime, Pearson said, the whole episode is representative of how government sometimes falls short of being all it was intended to be.
"The problem with governments and the people who create them is that there develops an immediate need for self-preservation that can easily turn dark and vicious,” he wrote. “Democracy is supposed to control the dark side of government but clearly has not.”