The Illinois State Rifle Association’s IGOLD event – Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day – saw weak attendance and energy on Wednesday. While estimates of attendance ranged from a couple of hundred on the low end to 3,000, all but one reported a few hundred – to be generous. Our pro-gun elected friends pretty much universally reported that “disappointing” was the overall adjective that best described this year’s event.
Yes, our pro-gun legislators enjoyed interfacing with gun owners and friends from their districts and beyond, it still wasn’t what it was ten or twelve years ago.
Here’s the good news: we know that we’re not going to stop bad bills in the Illinois General Assembly even if we had ten thousand gun owners show up day after day for weeks. A disappointing day isn’t going to kill our cause.
Let’s face it: If the Black Caucus wants more gun control, they can pass it in an afternoon if they want. The Black Caucus effectively runs the Illinois House and for all intents and purposes it has great control over the Senate as well.
Thank heavens we have the courts or it would be time to consider listing your home, packing your bags and moving to a free state.
As for IGOLD 2023… constructive criticism.
Candidly, the ISRA committed a number of unforced errors in IGOLD 2023.
First, they branded this as the ISRA’s event instead of a cooperative between all of the gun rights groups in Illinois. Instead of a banner touting IGOLD up front, they hung a giant ISRA banner. Which is fine as they paid the bill. At the same time it doesn’t exactly inspire “ownership” among the other organizations.
In fairness they allowed GSL volunteers to distribute GunNews to a couple of hundred people as attendees entered the Bank of Springfield Center and we thank them for that. Passing out GunNews gave those folks something to read while the speakers preached to the choir.
Secondly, they had to know the attendance would be weak again this year. It hasn’t been in the multi-thousands since roughly 2013 when Illinois was on the cusp of right to carry. Why rent a place that holds 13,000+ people comfortably when you expect a thousand on a good day? Why not rent a facility that holds 500-600, and fill the place to the rafters and show a crowded venue ahead of a march to the capitol building?
Thirdly, I don’t have the agenda for speakers but I knew GSL wasn’t invited to speak. Again, that’s okay. It’s not personal or sour grapes. There is no open animus between the ISRA and GSL, folks. In fact, I’d just about bet we could have gotten a speaking slot if we had asked.
But it wasn’t just asking reps from the larger gun rights groups to deliver a few words that was missing. I don’t believe the state’s biggest shooting club (with upwards of 3,000 members) got an invite to say a few words either (the Aurora Sportsman’s Club). Want to know who else was conspicuously absent? John Weber, the NRA-ILA’s point man on Illinois. The NRA-ILA does have resources and those initials still cause many pols to piddle themselves on a bad day and irritate them on a good day. And the NRA is still the state’s biggest gun group in both numbers and influence. We’ll conceded the number two position to ISRA… for now, at least in numbers and probably in influence as well. Although GSL has come a long way and is catching up pretty rapidly.
Why not invite as many groups as possible to talk for five or ten minutes?
Just food for thought for next year. There’s no need to spend ten thousand (or twenty thousand) dollars to commit unforced errors. You can do that for free.
The good news: Illinois should look a lot different in 2024. Hopefully all the groups can partner together to drive a better turn out than a few hundred folks for IGOLD 2024. Assuming there is such an animal.