Walsh fires up concealed carry supporters in Huntley

Gun rights advocates pack tea party gathering

A Huntley tea party gathering Tuesday night may have served as a campaign launching point for Congressman Joe Walsh as much as it did as a public forum on gun rights.

With 14th Congressional District incumbent Randy Hultgren looking on from the audience most of the night, Walsh delivered a series of audience-charging statements that lead to roaring applause. At least one audience member said, “Man, I love this guy.”

Walsh may also have drawn the first battle line of the race between himself and Hultgren by putting the tea party movement ahead of his Republican ballot status.

“The media doesn't understand this movement,” Walsh said. “The Republican Party doesn't understand this movement. And maybe it's a good thing that they don't.”

Walsh then told an audience filled with concealed carry advocates exactly what they wanted to hear in pledging to be a “cheerleader” for gun rights in Congress.

“We are an embarrassment (in Illinois),” Walsh said. “We are the last state standing when it comes to concealed carry. There's no issue when it comes to freedom that matters like this, like the Second Amendment. The most important amendment in that Bill of Rights is the Second Amendment. It protects every other amendment. It is the last line of defense between us and our government.”

Walsh said Congress should move to cut off all funding to the United Nations as well as any exploration of restricting gun manufacturing or arms trading through the U.N.

“There's no way the United States should be restricted by any international law,” Walsh said. “It amazes me that we're even looking into it.”

State Rep. Mike Tryon rode that wave of enthusiasm to call for a renewed effort to bring concealed carry to Illinois. Tryon is the co-sponsor of a bill that would do exactly that. Guns aren't the problem, Tryon said — gun violence is the true culprit. Addressing that violence means teaching gun violence prevention in local schools, he added.

He closed by quoting a bumper sticker he recently saw: “Blaming the gun for gun violence is like blaming the spoon that made Roseanne Barr fat.”

Organizers of the forum, held at the Codman Cultural Center, 12015 Mill St., attempted to balance out the information by giving time to Bill Jenkins, a professor at Dominican University. Jenkins' 16-year-old son was killed by a gunman robbing the fast food restaurant where he worked. Jenkins owns a .357 Magnum, but tried to convince the audience that concealed carry is bad for Illinois. Jenkins used statistics showing concealed carry doesn't lead to less crime. He pressed for full background checks with the idea of not banning most guns, but restricting more of the “military-grade” weapons to people who have a true reason to own them.

Jenkins' comments were greeted by frowns, a few cuss words and at least one shout of “liar” from an audience member.

As the forum neared its close, Walsh fired up the crowd one more time by saying he believes a special independent prosecutor will soon review at least one, if not two, actions by President Barack Obama's administration.

Walsh said either the loss of $527 million loaned to the California green energy company Solyndra, or the emerging Operation Fast and Furious details will spark enough questions to fuel an investigation. Operation Fast and Furious involves the ATF allegedly allowing thousands of weapons to fall into the hands of Mexico's drug cartels. Walsh said he believes evidence is beginning to show U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder both knew about and allowed those weapons to fall into the wrong hands.