Lawmakers often like to hold hearings on controversial bills, particularly gun control bills, so they can pretend they’ve heard from the public before reaching a decision.
Whether they pay any attention or not is a matter of debate.
Yet in Illinois, it seems their hearings are meant to be more performative than informative.
You see, in various cities around the state, there are a lot of places to open up to the public to get their take on various laws. There are rooms of various sizes.
So when they pick a relatively small room, it’s going to stand out a bit.
Three public hearings will be conducted by Illinois State Police to hear comments and take questions about the state’s banned firearms registry. The first is scheduled for a room in Springfield that seats less than 100. Gun rights advocates say that’s not going to be near enough.
As part of Illinois’ gun and magazine ban enacted earlier this year, those who previously owned the now-banned firearms must register them by Jan. 1, 2024, or potentially face criminal penalties. Tuesday, a legislative panel recommended Illinois State Police provide better definitions of what’s required to be registered and to hold three public hearings.
“ISP already has one public hearing scheduled regarding the Protecting Illinois Communities Act rule and is working to schedule two additional hearings,” an agency spokesperson said.
The first hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, inside Room D1 of the Stratton Building at the capitol complex in Springfield. While a total fire code occupancy limit for that room could not be found by several sources Wednesday, one source counted 87 public chairs.
Dan Eldridge with Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois said a small committee room for such a big issue makes no sense.
“I expect that attendance at these hearings is going to be well in excess of what they can fit into that room,” Eldridge told The Center Square.
“These rules are serious business. There’s compliance risk for [federal firearms licensees]. There’s compliance risk for manufacturers and customers and gun owners. We’re talking about possible felony charges.”
It makes perfect sense if you realize the goal is to limit criticism of the new rules.
Illinois doesn’t want pushback on its gun control efforts. They passed a law and now they want to enforce that law, preferably with as little fuss as possible.
It’s a gun control bill, though, and that means there’s going to be at least some fuss.
By setting up the hearing in a relatively small room, you can minimize the opposition nicely without having to actually ban anyone from coming.
Don’t be surprised if supporters of the bill are advised to be there earlier than others so they can get the good seats and thus further skew the perception of how the public views the gun ban.
Understand that they have access to bigger rooms. They weren’t married to that date, either, which means if the bigger places were booked, they could have waited for the hearing.
This is an intentional act by Illinois officials and the only way that makes sense is if it is, in fact, to minimize the appearance of opposition.
They can hold their hearings like this, then say they spoke with the people and most supported the law and what they wanted to do with it. It’s dirty and underhanded, but then again, this is Illinois. What else did we expect?