This Friday marks the third anniversary of the passing of Emery Gene Martin.
Most of us who knew him personally knew him as Gene. Most who knew him on the Internet knew him as “Ol Coach”.
His passing was especially sad as we all knew it was coming. As I understood it, Gene suffered some sort of lung disorder that required greater and greater concentrations of oxygen to allow him to live. However, greater oxygen concentrations over long periods increases the risk of heart attack.
Gene opted to forgo the extra oxygen and prospects of a painful death from a heart attack. Literally one day he was perfectly cognizant and upbeat, discussing ways to gain a right-to-carry in Illinois, albeit sitting in a hospital bed, and the next day he quietly slipped away.
Gene was a great man. He was an inspiring coach of young people for many years, hence his Internet nickname “Ol Coach”.
He also was inspiring in his passion for the Second Amendment.
He brought together every Illinois gun rights group and got them all working as a team.
His work led to creation of the Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day and with it, greatly increased communication and teamwork between the groups.
One could say it was like herding cats on the best of days. Gene Martin herded those cats – even overcoming bruised egos and hard feelings of the past – to get everyone on the same page of music and marching to the same beat – just as he would his Unity High School athletic teams over the years. It was truly a renaissance for the gun rights movement.
He met with the groups and privately sold them on the benefits of working as one. Publicly, he prodded, poked and encouraged them.
In part, some of the communications and planning was accomplished at a hidden “private” forum at Illinois Carry, where representatives from all of the organizations could hash things out behind the scenes on a real-time basis.
How effective was Gene in his work?
The old Illinois State Rifle Association’s “Lobby Day”, was typically attended by a three hundred ISRA members on a good year.
In March 2007, through Gene’s work getting all of the gun rights groups working together, his IGOLD saw roughly 1200 in attendance.
Last year we had over 8,000 people.
Where have we come since Gene’s passing?
We’ve got right-to-carry. It’s not pretty, but it’s a start and it’s something that with a new governor, will only take a simple majority to improve upon.
IGOLD has consistently turned out about 8,000 people the past couple of years.
Gun rights has seen great things happen, in part thanks to key court decisions recognizing our Second Amendment rights.
Sadly, parts of the communications network Martin worked so hard to cobble together have seen fractures that have turned into canyons of late.
We leave you with Paul Vallandigham’s commentary on the passing of Gene Martin on a cold, dreary day in January 2011. And we remind you that IGOLD will be Wednesday, March 5th this year. Be there or be square!
UPDATE: We are pleased to say that a communications link between GunsSaveLife and IllinoisCarry may have been re-established today.
The good Lord works in mysterious ways. We have deleted some of the earlier post and thank any of our readers who have had a hand in this.
by Paul Vallandigham
(GunNews) – We can all agree that we lost a fine friend, and colleague on a cold and dreary Monday morning in January 2011, but we lost much more.
Gene Martin did tremendous work in his spare time fighting for civil rights for all Illinoisans and frankly, one of the reasons various civil rights groups throughout Illinois are working together so well today is a direct result of Mr. Martin’s good work bringing leaders and key people together on our shared goals.
IGOLD – Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day – was Gene’s idea.
The Illinois State Rifle Association had sponsored its own lobby day for years. It usually turned out a couple of hundred participants in an somewhat impressive show that didn’t involve busing in disinterested people from outside of Springfield attending for their free meals and some spending money – or courtesy of the Chicago Public School system.
Mr. Martin suggested organizing all of the gun rights groups, internet forums, manufacturers, retailers and others in the industry to into a “super lobby day” under the ISRA’s direction.
The annual IGOLD event has grown to include upwards of 7,000 participants marching through the streets of Springfield to the capitol building, descending to flood the halls and offices of the Illinois General Assembly with goldenrod IGOLD t-shirts.
Mr. Martin’s efforts crafting the IGOLD event each year would make him a remarkable man, but he didn’t stop there.
Martin’s selfless and tireless work on Illinois’ “Second Amendment Resolution” was where still more gun owners around Illinois came to know Gene. The Second Amendment Resolution project reaffirmed each county’s belief in the Second Amendment protection of an individual right to keep and bear arms, and demanded the Illinois legislature stop passing gun control laws.
Gene came the Guns Save Life board of directors and asked us to lobby the Champaign County Board to pass the resolution.
We turned Gene down, not because we were not, to a person, enthusiastic about the idea, but because we had been beating our heads against the brick wall that is the anti-gun Champaign County Board led by a very anti-Second Amendment Democrat leader.
We wished him well, and Gene left and a couple of months later he had single-handedly cobbled together enough votes to pass the resolution with the implacable Champaign County Board. It was later blocked on a procedural ruling by the virulently anti-gun Board Chairman, but we were impressed.
We assisted where we could and in the subsequent months, Martin and others had gotten the resolution passed in over ninety of Illinois’ 102 counties. Some of those counties went on to host ballot initiatives, albeit advisory, on right-to-carry.
A direct result of the county resolutions was that county sheriffs in Illinois became involved in their support of a carry law.
In 2009, the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, voted unanimously in support of its own resolution supporting a right-to-carry law in Illinois. (The Cook County sheriff was absent.)
Give credit to Gene for this extraordinary change of affairs. The political clout of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association has contributed to still more people supporting right-to-carry. Of all fifty states, only Illinois and Wisconsin lack some provision for carry licenses.
I know from talking to Gene this past year that he was very pleased with the real momentum building in Illinois to pass a carry bill. He didn’t take credit for any of it. But, I think he knew.
Illinois will be the last state in the nation to pass right to carry, but it will happen someday. And we’ll all owe Gene Martin a debt of gratitude.
So, Thank you Gene. Not only for your work on the Board of Directors of Guns Save Life, and in your leadership role with IllinoisCarry.com, but also for being such a fine gentleman, the great coach, a terrific father and husband, and even grandfather, to set an example for us all.
I don’t believe I have ever heard of anyone who didn’t like Gene. He was admired and respected for holding to his basic principles and values. He has left his mark among us, and we are all better for him passing this way. Gene will be missed by both his family and all his many friends.
It is with Gene Martin in mind we will encourage all of our Guns Save life families, friends, neighbors and co-workers to attend this year’s IGOLD event. It won’t be the same without bumping into Gene Martin, but in these increasingly turbulent times, we need right-to-carry in Illinois more than ever.