2017 Constitutional Rights Fundraiser for the Illinois State Rifle Association
By Gretchen A. Fritz
“Gandhi once observed that every movement goes through four stages: First they ignore you; then they abuse you; then they crack down on you and then you win.” (Peter D. Jones in WIN: Peace and Freedom Through Nonviolent Action, 1982)
Steve Balich is a lot like Gandhi, only he talks like a Sicilian from the South Side of Chicago. Balich is currently a member of the Will County Board, but he first made his mark as a co-founder of the Homer/Lockport TEA Party in 2009. He continues to champion conservative principles, the Second Amendment being chief among them. In 2014 he established the non-profit Constitutional Rights with the help of Vivienne Porter so that he could raise money for the Illinois State Rifle Association. On September 14, 2017, Constitutional Rights held its 4th Annual Fundraiser for the ISRA.
Dan Proft, cohost of The Morning Answer on AM 560 in Chicago, Senior Fellow at Illinois Policy Institute, President of Liberty Principles PAC and cofounder of the Illinois Opportunity Project served as emcee for the event. His remarks were complimentary and encouraging with touches of the satire for which he is known.
“One of the most successful political movements in the history of America is the gun rights movement, without question. Thirty years ago zero states had right-to-carry laws. Today fifty states have right-to-carry laws. That is a sea-change in a short period of time. And of course in Illinois, in particular, it’s a sea-change because we were ground zero for the gun-banning movement…And the reason that you may have seen the sea-change over just three decades is because of you all—because of the Illinois State Rifle Association, because of grassroots, because of law-abiding gun owners that stood up for their individual constitutional rights of self-protection. That’s the difference.”
Proft encouraged the 2A supporters present to soldier on: “Those that want to take away our individual constitutional right to self-protection are still around. They haven’t gone anywhere. And that’s why Illinois State Rifle Association and gun rights groups and…your activism are so important. Because they will never relent. They’re just waiting for a time when it is politically advantageous for them to strike again and to curtail your gun rights.”
Proft continued by really making the work of the ISRA personal, especially Ezell v. City of Chicago. “The litigation that was pursued by Rich Pearson and the Illinois State Rifle Association, in particular against the City of Chicago, obviously was instrumental in freeing hundreds of millions of Americans to protect themselves, particularly those who are unfortunate enough to be relegated to shooting galleries like the south and west sides of Chicago. You are standing up for the rights of the law abiding in some of the worst neighborhoods in the city, the state and the country, and for that, you deserve applause.”
Keynote speaker David A. Keene followed Proft. Keene is Editor at Large at the Washington Times, the nation’s largest conservative newspaper. He was the president of the National Rifle Association from 2012 to 2013. He has written extensively on politics, civil liberties and criminal justice issues for the Hill, the Boston Globe, National Review, Human Events, the American Spectator and others. He was traveling the speaking circuit in support of his current book, Shall Not Be Infringed: The New Assaults on Your Second Amendment.
“When I was asked to come out, I was anxious to do it….I came out to thank you for what you do, because you are on the front lines here in Illinois, in particular, in dealing with the City of Chicago….I had the honor of heading the NRA during our gun fight, as we call it, with Barack Obama. At the beginning of that, everybody thought we were going to lose virtually everything. We didn’t because, around the country, people just like you did what they had to do to protect their constitutional rights. They stood up. They fought. They made phone calls. They did everything they could do.”
Keene told several heartwarming stories about events during his time as the president of the NRA. “The [Obama] administration went after the states to introduce packages of gun control legislation that had to be fought at the state level. That ended when the legislative leaders in Colorado were recalled and defeated. I said at the time that you could hear the speakers of various assemblies across the country, their doors slamming shut because they were no longer even willing to discuss this. Because they had learned that gun owners were not asleep or, if they had been, that it was dangerous to wake them up because they were gonna fight for their rights.”
Keene told a story about the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show that was held in Pennsylvania each winter. In 2013 organizers decided about a week before the show that they would not allow the display of “any of the guns that the President didn’t like.” Over 300 sponsors and vendors walked out, causing the show to collapse and costing Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, $70-80 million.
Keene said, “The interesting thing about it…it wasn’t the NRA that walked out first. It was the fishermen and then bowhunters, and then we walked out….That sent a message that the other goal of the anti-gun movement in that fight, which was to divide gun owners from other outdoorsmen and sportsmen, wasn’t gonna work….You couldn’t divide competitive shooters from hunters or self-defense advocates from hunters and gun collectors or from other outdoors people, because they knew they would be next on the list.”
Keene’s closing echoed Proft’s comments about perseverance and esprit de corps. “The reason that we made progress is not because we’re right—but we are. That makes little difference in the political wars that we have to fight. It’s because there are so many of us.”
Keene said that before 1968, the NRA was not a political or lobbyist organization, but promised that it—along with state organizations like ISRA—will continue to stand up for gun owners and the Second Amendment. “Think about it again: in 1968 nobody would have thought we would have the rights we have today. In twenty years, if we do our job, those rights are going to be expanded.”
Steve Balich and his organizing committee are already planning next year’s event. The 2018 Constitutional Rights fundraiser will be in September at the Clarion Hotel in Joliet; the exact date will be determined by the availability of a suitable keynote speaker.
A YouTube video of the dinner can be seen at https://youtu.be/1ITLwJXJos0.
Reprinted from The Illinois Shooter