Conceal-carry gun activists criticize May at Highland Park meeting
Highland Park, 07/09/11--State Rep. Karen May, D-58th, passes out a sheet of talking points before a town hall meeting Saturday in Highland Park. May called the meeting to discuss several pieces of legislation she worked on in Springfield and talk about other matters with her constituents. | Shauna Bittle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 23, 2012 2:41AM
State Rep. Karen May, D-58th, continued her series of town hall meetings Saturday at the Highland Park Police Station; however, her agenda to discuss energy issues and her recent legislative successes shifted abruptly to conceal-and-carry gun laws.
What sparked the topic change was May’s vote earlier this year against a state House proposal that would have granted gun owners the right to carry firearms on their bodies.
Nearly a dozen attendees, most from outside May’s North Shore district, wore yellow shirts or hats that displayed IGOLD (Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day) decals and messages. Several more gun-rights activists joined members of the Illinois State Rifle Association to help create the standing-room crowd.
“At my age, I cannot run to save my life,” Hanover Park resident Leonard Czerechowicz said before the public meeting began. “If I was attacked, I wouldn’t be able to defend myself.”
“It’s the law in the Constitution of the United States,” added Howard Roark, a Lake County resident.
May, of Highland Park, opened the town hall session by focusing on her “green team,” then rattled off a series of legislative successes from the last General Assembly session. She touted her successful sponsorship of a pension-reform bill, an emergency 911 bracelet program, 911 fee collection changes, an amendment affecting the North Shore Sanitary District’s disbursement of treated wastewater and leaf-disposal protocol.
She also explained House Bill 1272, which if signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, would require individuals released on bail to surrender their Firearms Owner Identification cards.
Evanston resident Blair Garber and Oak Brook’s Jim Nazarowski changed the subject, asking the first two questions about the state’s conceal-carry policy.
Nazarowski told May her opposition is hypocritical based on her thoughtful positions on the other public safety laws she supported.
“When every second counts — the police are sometimes just minutes away — the opportunity for a citizen in Illinois to defend themselves is something that you want to prohibit them from,” Nazarowski said.
Garber asked May why Illinois wouldn’t be able to manage effectively a conceal-carry law if 49 other states currently have the regulatory framework on the books. The Evanston resident said May’s opposition is actually an extreme position given the national support of conceal and carry.
“I don’t understand what makes Illinois less responsible,” Garber said.
“We are a very different state,” May responded, prompting one of two crowd uproars.
No support in district
May explained that she voted against the bill because her district overwhelmingly does not support conceal and carry in Illinois.
May mentioned her downstate upbringing and said she understands the importance of gun ownership.
She added, however, that the gun-rights lobby is distorting her position. May supports the Second Amendment, but she explained that the recent conceal-carry proposal is flawed because it fails to provide mental health precautions.
“I am positively representing my district ... I’ve walked almost all of the towns in the district, I am out at coffee shops and farmers markets, they tell me my district does not support conceal carry,” May said.
“I get mail about the budget, I get mail about pensions, I get mail about education, I get mail about providing human services and education,” May concluded, trying to put an end to the issue. “I do not want to spend a whole hour discussing conceal carry because it’s not the No. 1 issue for this district.”
May told the conceal-carry activist group she would be willing to discuss the issue further after the meeting. Highland Park and 58th District residents, who outnumbered the gun-rights attendees, helped May return the subject to the city’s electrical grid and ComEd’s service reliability for the remainder of the informal town hall gathering.