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posted: 4/16/2014 5:00 AM

Politics of scare tactics unproductive

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

It's something you might expect from a blogger with extremist views, full of panic and hyperbole.

"URGENT ALERT -- YOUR ACTION REQUIRED. GUN GRABBERS TURN UP THE HEAT. NEW GUN CONTROL RECRUITMENT MEETING ANNOUNCED FOR NORTHWEST SUBURBS."

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The all-caps are there in a message issued on letterhead from the Illinois State Rifle Association. It urges gun owners to attend a suburban Democrat's town hall meeting Thursday at Roselle village hall -- even though those holding the meeting, including State Sen. Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge, have no intention of bringing up gun control.

"KOTOWSKI IS NOT AFRAID TO SHOW HOW MUCH HE HATES GUN OWNERS," the letter reads.

In a story in today's Daily Herald, Political Editor Mike Riopell writes about how Kotowski and state Rep. Michelle Mussman, a Schaumburg Democrat, put out a flier that invites people to "share your thoughts and opinions on state and local issues and for an update on the legislature's spring session."

Kotowski told Riopell that saying the meeting is intended to recruit gun control advocates is "reckless, irresponsible and dangerous."

Kotowski, who chairs the Senate budget committee, told Riopell the meeting is intended to be an idea exchange before lawmakers meet next month for a final push on a state budget.

Gun enthusiasts, of course, have reason to be wary of Kotowski. Before being elected to the Senate, he worked for six years as one of the state's top gun control lobbyists as executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. He voted against the concealed carry legislation last year and has proposed limiting the size of ammunition magazines.

This year, though, discussion of any gun control measures has been muted. Kotowski did recently back the idea of outlawing concealed weapons in places of worship, but that went nowhere.

The rifle association sent out a similar call to action to pack a meeting tonight in Wheeling sponsored by State Rep. Eileen Nekritz. That one, however, will focus on how to follow the new concealed carry law.

We understand the concerns of gun owners. But bending the truth and using scare tactics is not the way to build a positive consensus on gun ownership -- or any issue. It may rally some political victories in the short run, but it is likely to have deleterious effects on everyone's interests over time.

It damages the credibility of the ISRA and, by proxy, its members. It confirms in the minds of those who have an opposing viewpoint that gun owners are irrational. And it foments an us-against-them mentality that -- now that concealed carry is the law of the land -- people should be working hard to erase.

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