The news of Springfield Armory and Rock River Arms selling Illinois gun dealers and gun owners down the river continues to spread among The People of The Gun. As it should. For those who missed it, we broke the story late Thursday evening.
Springfield Armory, Rock River Arms Trade Opposition to Illinois FFL Licensing Scheme for Carve-Out
The lobbyist for the Illinois Firearms Manufacturers Association (IFMA), Jay Keller, traded that group’s opposition to the bill in exchange for a carve-out, removing Prairie State firearms manufacturers from the licensing requirements.
A whole lot of gun owners see the deal as a sell-out. And they’re telling their friends.
This wasn’t the first time gun dealer licensing has come up in Illinois. We beat back a similar bill last year. This year, State Senator Don Harmon needed IFMA to end their opposition to his bill. IFMA’s Keller testified in March at the Illinois Senate Judiciary committee of his willingness to consider dropping the lobbying group’s opposition to the bill if his clients were exempted.
As a long-time, dedicated anti-gunner, this wasn’t Senator Harmon’s first legislative rodeo. Like a shrewd negotiator, Harmon happily added a manufacturer and big box retailer carve-out to the bill so he could cobble together the last few votes he needed to get it through the Senate.
Keller dropped IFMA’s opposition, providing cover for a couple of wavering Senators to vote for the bill. Sure enough, the bill passed the Senate by a single vote.
Some might say IFMA’s change of heart might not have made a definitive difference. It might not have, but then again, if Senator Harmon didn’t think it wouldn’t have gotten him that last vote or two he needed, he wouldn’t have offered the deal.
In the end, the timing proved fortuitous to all involved. All except for gun owners and the non-big box store gun dealers who have to live and work in the Land of Lincoln.
The biggest tragedy
Maybe worst of all, passage gives anti-gunners a win they desperately needed. Today, we have nearly one dozen gun control groups working in Illinois. Half of those are national groups out of Washington, D.C., that have set up shop in Springfield hotels.
They’ve come to the heart of flyover country because they know their anti-2A dog won’t hunt back in Washington. They see deep-blue Illinois as a great place to enact more of their gun control schemes. And gun control wins, like this keep the gravy train flowing so they can continue to draw a paycheck and keep on going.
Salt in the wound
Dennis Reese’s statement to TTAG on IFMA’s deal was insulting. He didn’t say, “Hey, we screwed up. We’re pulling out of IFMA and regret that this happened. We want our dealers and our valued customers to know we won’t ever do anything like this again.”
Instead, he said, and I quote:
“…We fully support the Second Amendment and stand by it. The Illinois Manufacturers Association will continue to fight and protect not only manufacturers, but dealers and the gun owner as well.”
His lobbyist will continue to fight and protect dealers and gun owners? It was his lobbyist who stood aside on a bill that rations everyday Illinoisans to nine firearm transfers per year. That’s not fighting to protect gun owners. That’s rolling over and showing your belly while wagging your tail.
If signed into law, the bill his lobbyist declined to oppose will drive many dealers out of business with its onerous and expensive restrictions and requirements. With “support” like that, who needs Everytown?
I’ve spoken with a couple of bigger dealers in Illinois in the past 24 hours. Both
are were on their way to selling over a quarter million of Springfield product this year. But they’ve already heard from their customers about the IFMA sell-out. One dealer told me he’s pulling Springfield product from his shelves to give his salespeople a break from carping customers.
“So, you’re not buying a bunch of Springfield’s new pistols?” I asked one. “Oh, hell no,” he told me. “I’m not ordering anything Springfield. Frankly, I’m wondering how I’m going to sell my existing inventory.”
Another dealer told me he wished Springfield well. But I didn’t detect a lot of love in his words.
Meanwhile, over at the Rock River booth at the NRA convention, owner Chuck Larson has professed innocence in the matter. He’s told several industry types that he had no contact with IFMA lobbyist Jay Keller and knew nothing of this carve-out. What’s more, Larson seems genuinely appalled by what happened.
Springfield, on the other hand, has gone silent. CEO Dennis Reese hasn’t responded to a request for comment or a further statement beyond the one he released Thursday night.
Ben Franklin once said, “If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.”
If IFMA had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the NRA-ILA, the Illinois State Rifle Association, Guns Save Life and the National Shooting Sports Foundation – working as a team to oppose this egregious bill – we’d have had a good chance of depriving anti-gunners of a badly needed win.
Instead, we were undercut by a self-serving supposed ally.
Maybe the deal was the result of a lobbyist gone rogue. Perhaps a company thought they could pull a fast one and nobody would notice. There’s no way to know for sure. Regardless of who did what, the after-effects of this deal and a legislative loss will be felt far beyond Illinois for some time to come.