Our own Jeremy S recently posted a review of Springfield Armory’s new XD-E pistol. As usual, he wrote a dispassionate and objective review, noting some issues with the new gun. The comments section, in contrast, had plenty of passion, yet little in the way of love for Springfield. Why all the hate? Simply put: gun buyers have long memories and no one has forgot Springfield Armory’s and Rock River’s self-serving carve out in the Illinois gun dealer licensing bill.
Not only did many readers pledge to take a pass on the XD-E, but also the company as well. More polite than many, Garrison Hall’s comment summed up the feeling of many:
I am not inclined to purchase anything marketed by Springfield. A company that sinks to their level of crony capitalism doesn’t deserve the patronage of the people it betrays…
If you hadn’t heard, earlier this year Springfield and Rock River, through their then-lobbying organization, the Illinois Firearms Manufacturers Association (IFMA), traded their opposition for an Illinois gun dealer licensing bill (SB-1647) in exchange for a carve-out for themselves. I fired a warning shot across the bow of the org the day before IFMA formally traded its opposition to the bill for an exemption. From there, we broke the news of the “deal”, and covered the aftermath, too.
In reaction to the self-serving deal-making, America’s gun owners gave the two companies both proverbial barrels.
Seeing their sales affected almost immediately, Springfield and Rock River went into damage control mode. Both companies (SAI, RRA) pulled out of IFMA. Springfield also released a slick marketing video, citing company president Dennis Reese receiving the “yellow jacket” award from the NRA and pledging to never sell out gun owners.
In addition, Reese’s company wrote sizable checks to the NRA-ILA and the Illinois State Rifle Association to oppose the bill’s progress. Reese’s company also spent a ton of money on advertising to ask gun owners across Illinois – indeed the nation – to oppose the bill.
So, where does the Illinois gun dealer licensing bill stand today?
In short, it has become toxic enough to fence-sitting legislators that it’s effectively dead. Calls and emails from gun owners poured into Illinois House members. While gun control advocates tried to whip up gun grabbers nationwide to support the bill, they failed. In the end, Prairie State reps’ phones melted down with calls from angry gun owners. Some pols said the bill saw more public comment than any bill they’d seen in many years.
The problem is that most bills in Illinois resemble zombies — they can be reanimated in the dead of night under Illinois’ complex legislative rules. However, we don’t need votes to stop SB-1647. The bill’s proponents need sixty votes for passage in the House. Right now, though, one Illinois rep says publicly they have only 44 votes. My unofficial count of supporters is higher, but it might as well be a million miles and another solar eclipse away for Gabby Giffords and company.
Further complicating their efforts is that proponents can’t count on their votes. Many who have told sponsors they support the licensing bill privately say they plan to either vote against it or “become unavailable” to vote yes.
To further fight the bill, the ISRA has hired Ed Sullivan, a former long-time legislator, to lobby on gun owners’ behalf. Sullivan complements the efforts of Todd Vandermyde, the NRA-ILA’s contract lobbyist. I suspect Springfield Armory money allowed ISRA to hire Mr. Sullivan and it’s been money well spent.
Springfield has also retained the services of a lobbying firm to represent them in the Illinois General Assembly. Given the devastating fall-out from the IFMA fiasco, I don’t expect more future self-serving deal-making. At the same time, as one of the people lobbying in the capitol, I’ll keep an eye on them. As Smith & Wesson and Ruger before them have found, it will take a lot for Springfield Armory to regain gun owners’ trust.
But there’s been some other negative fallout from the kerfuffle. A couple of downstate communities have seriously flirted with enacting local gun dealer licensing ordinances. Guns Save Life helped beat back the proposal in Galesburg. The law of unintended consequences applies everywhere.
Meanwhile, gun owners aren’t the only ones carrying grudges. Just as TTAG could not get a XD-E for testing and evaluation from Springfield, Illinois gun rights group Guns Save Life has found itself conspicuously overlooked by Springfield in their support of Illinois gun rights orgs. It surely looks as though Springfield’s trying to punish the messengers for its own missteps.