A move by several municipal governments to consider banning assault weapons has come to Lake County, and gun owners are preparing for a struggle.
The first arena will be Village Board and City Council chambers across the region, as firearms owners plan to speak publicly in opposition to local bans. If that doesn't work, the next venue likely will be the courtroom, according to Mike Weisman, second vice president of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
"There is litigation around the country on ordinances like this, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more," Weisman said.
A state law allowing gun owners to carry their handguns awaits Gov. Pat Quinn's signature, but it also starts the clock ticking for home-rule municipalities with regard to larger firearms, commonly referred to as assault weapons.
Cook County already has its own assault weapons ban, but municipalities in other Illinois counties that do not have an ordinance on their books after 10 days of the governor's signature would be prohibited from creating one, according to the bill, which Quinn has until July 9 to sign.
For state Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, who voted against the concealed carry law, said the issue is about municipal rights. He organized a recent summit of local suburban leaders "to understand the tight deadlines and the Draconian consequences of doing nothing."
For gun owners, however, it's a constitutional issue. About 50 suburban firearms enthusiasts recently gathered in Buffalo Grove to strategize on how to oppose assault weapons bans currently under consideration in Highland Park, Deerfield, Buffalo Grove, Lake Forest, Waukegan and elsewhere.
Deerfield officials later retreated from an outright ban, and are now considering local regulations on storage and transportation of assault weapons.
Local assault weapons bans would "create criminals out of law-abiding citizens," Weisman told the group. He said he believed the bans are aimed at the AR-15 — which is the popular class of semi-automatic rifle used in both the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the Aurora, Colo., movie theater massacre.
Weisman gave the group of gun aficionados, among other advice, a list of talking points to raise with elected officials in towns considering assault weapons bans.
"Of course, always be polite," he told them.
Weisman said gun owners should ask local leaders why they are only now considering assault weapons bans and whether they're prepared to defend them in court or prosecute violators, as well as arguing that weapons bans do not impact criminals, among other points.
Joel Siegel, a member of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, noted that there is a large Jewish demographic in Highland Park, Deerfield and Buffalo Grove, which has already expressed interest in creating an assault weapons ban.
"I think these bans can be attacked as an anti-Semitic ban," Siegel said, noting that Jews in Germany were stripped of their weapons at the outset of the Holocaust.
"Gun arguments — nobody listens to those," Siegel said, advocating "to fight them on the basis of the disarming of the Jewish population and we will not tolerate it. The Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership will not tolerate the disarming of the Jewish residents of the North Shore of the northern suburbs."
Attorney Scott Haugh, of Roselle, said the group should take the offensive, and send lawsuit complaints in advance to communities pondering a weapons ban, listing the town and its leaders as defendants.
"If you pass this, this is going to be filed," Haugh said the officials should be told.
Daniel Easterday, of Highland Park, advised his fellow gun owners to remind local leaders of the power of the dollar.
"I do a lot of shopping in Deerfield, and I will withhold my money from local businesses," Easterday said. "I will not give one cent. I'll move. I'll take my whole family and I'll move."