By: Congressman Adam Kinzinger (Ill.-11)
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms." On July 8th, these formidable words rang true in Wisconsin as Governor Scott Walker signed a bill into law, making the State of Wisconsin the 49th state to legalize concealed carry.
Now, the focus turns to Illinois, which is the only remaining state in the nation to deny law-abiding citizens of the right to carry. For far too long, the Right to Carry has been politicized and often demonized here in the Land of Lincoln. It is high time that Illinois wakes up and acknowledges this fundamental right is neither a Republican nor a Democratic issue; rather it's about giving honest citizens the right to self-defense.
The constitutions of the United States and that of 44 states, common law, and the laws of all states recognize that citizens have the right to use arms in cases of self-defense. However, what purpose does this serve in Illinois if a person is attacked outside of the home?
Each year, more data highlights the importance of Right-to-Carry laws. Murder rates have declined by 49 percent since a fivefold increase in the number of shall-issue concealed carry states from 1986 through 2006. And, according to a U.S. Justice Department study, "40 percent [of felons] had not committed crimes, fearing victims were armed." However, in Illinois, felons know that it is illegal to carry a gun in the state, putting law-abiding citizens at great risk and leaving them vulnerable to criminal activity that could have otherwise been prevented.
Unfortunately, the governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, has turned the Right to Carry into a political issue. Rather than listening to the voice of law-abiding Illinois citizens, in May Gov. Quinn, an anti-gun advocate, made phone calls at the eleventh hour to sway Illinois Democrats to block vital legislation brought to the state legislature that would permit concealed carry in Illinois. Evidently, Gov. Quinn knows better than 49 other states, and knows better than top law enforcement organizations such as the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the Illinois Sheriffs' Association, the Chicago Police Lieutenants' Association and the Chicago Police Sergeants' Association.
Although the governor does not understand the danger this casts on citizens, I do, which is why I co-sponsored H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011. This legislation allows any person with a state-issued carry permit to carry in any other state that issues permits to its own residents, subject to the limitations that apply to permit holders in the host state. Unfortunately, the bill wouldn't apply in Illinois, which issues no permits because Gov. Quinn fails to understand the risks he manufactures in the very state in which he governs. But I refuse to deny the residents of other states-and Illinois residents who've gotten nonresident permits elsewhere-the right to travel freely and safely in the 49 states that haven't tried to completely eliminate that right.
Illinois must follow the example set by every other state in this nation and allow law-abiding citizens to own and bear arms. We must restore, defend and preserve this constitutional right at all levels of government.