Gun rights, motorcycle groups making contingency plans after Illinois puts limits on large crowds at statehouse

(The Center Square) – Large-turnout annual citizen lobby days at the Illinois State Capitol are being postponed after the Secretary of State put limits on large gatherings because of concerns over spreading COVID-19.

“The Illinois Secretary of State’s office is taking a number of precautionary measures to limit the possibilities for the exposure of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) at the State Capitol,” Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office said. “Permits for all scheduled tours of the Illinois State Capitol Building and all events scheduled to take place at the Capitol Building have been canceled. In addition, lobbyists who have lobby days or other events at the Capitol Building are being encouraged to alert them to these cancellations.”

Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said they are postponing Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day, or I-GOLD. That was supposed to be April 1.

“I think about all these disabled people who come in there that aren’t healthy anyway,” Pearson said. “I can understand why they did it, you know”

Pearson said the tentative rescheduled date is May 13. In the meantime, he encouraged gun rights supporters to lobby lawmakers virtually.

“Of course if they have computers they can email them and they have their lawmaker’s address off of the state website [ILGA.gov],” Pearson said. “You just look them up and you’ll see their capitol phone number and also their email. So you can email them or simply call them.”

But the gun lobby isn’t the only group postponing a lobby day. Josh Witkowski with motorcycle lobby ABATE of Illinois said they are moving their scheduled March 25 event.

“Access to the capitol is going to be limited,” Witkowski said. “We are going to strongly encourage members to visit with their legislators back in district when they take their two week spring break in April.”

While Witkowski said people should always consider contacting their lawmakers virtually through email or phone calls, he said there’s nothing like face-to-face interaction.

“Having the physical presence there in the statehouse has aided in the passage of many good pieces of legislation,” Witkowski said. “There’s just a difference when you have a physical presence versus a phone call or an email, it makes a better impression.”

He hopes they can reschedule the biker lobby day for sometime in May.

The legislature canceled next week’s session. They’re scheduled the following week, but then have two weeks off for spring break.

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