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Gun Owners March on Statehouse
Illinois still hasn't passed a concealed carry measure, despite a federal court order. Meanwhile, many Chicago lawmakers are pushing for more gun restrictions. Today, during the annual Gun Owners Lobby Day at the Capitol, hundreds of gun owners rallied to encourage others to tell their legislators about their gun rights.
Gun owners started their day packing in to the Prairie Capital Convention Center to rally for two main causes: passing concealed carry in Illinois and stopping new restrictions such as assault weapon bans.
"Gun owners are caught kind of in a hard spot right now," Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said. "They want concealed carry, but some people say you've got to give up all your other firearms to get it. But to get concealed carry, we're not gonna do that."
Then gun owners marched en masse down Capitol Avenue for a second rally outside the Capitol, where concealed carry seems to be the biggest rallying point.
"Self-defense," Travis Munn of Sycamore said. "I've got a family, a little boy, a girl on the way. I want to keep them safe."
"We have children," Sarah Shirley from Toledo said. "It's important to protect our children, and it's important to protect what our forefathers laid out."
But this isn't a crowd that favors any new gun control measures.
"As a veteran I understand that really, having that stuff means nothing, it doesn't do anything against a crime," gun owner John Garrett said. "It's pretty obvious to me. I don't know why it's not obvious to other people."
"I was once a rape victim so I know how important it is for self-defense," Danielle Lawson from Riverton said. "And how I want to be able to defend myself with whatever type of weapon I choose. I believe that's my right to choose as a woman."
But the main purpose of the event is for the gun owners to head inside the capitol to meet with lawmakers face to face.
"Here people have traveled, in many cases, three hours to be here, because they believe so strongly in this," Republican State Sen. Dave Syverson of Rockford said. "And I think that makes a difference for legislators, so they know the passion that these individuals have, in giving people the right to protect themselves, like 49 other states do."
ISRA executive director Richard Pearson estimated this year's crowd at around 8,000 people. He told us they had around 7,500 last year. He expected an even larger crowd, but snow up north prevented several buses from making the trip, which he said would have brought in 1,500 or more.
The gun owners who took part in the lobby day met with lawmakers from their districts. They also tried to speak with House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, but were unsuccessful.
Reporting in Springfield, Mike Brooks, ABC NewsChannel 15.