At the center of the race for State Senate District 31 between Mary Edly-Allen and Sam Yingling is the matter of gun control. The vast majority of the competing messaging is about this one topic and comes to voters in the form of mailers, cable buys and Facebook ads with a smattering on other digital platforms. As most of the messaging started with Yingling, that is a good place to start in evaluating what is accurate and what is not. There is an old saying in politics that well applies here… “he was for it before he was against it.”

Yingling’s Narrative About Himself

Sam is a very capable politician who began his messaging early. Starting in March, residents of the 31st district were sent letters from Sam through his district office touting his claimed dedication to gun reform. In May this became slick mailers from his campaign insisting, “Sam stood up to the extreme agenda of the NRA.” His first cable buy and Facebook ads went on to call himself a “legislative leader on guns”. In it Yingling correctly points to endorsements he has recently received from GPAC, Brady Pac and Giffords. There is however much more to the story that he is leaving out, which we get to below.

Sam Yingling’s Assertions About Edly-Allen

Towards the end of May, the Edly-Allen campaign began sending their own mailers, cable buys and Facebook ads, much of which challenged Yingling on his gun record. In response, Sam put out an ad calling Edly-Allen a liar and excoriating her for referencing the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Edly-Allen’s Assertions about Yingling

Mary’s messaging on gun reform cites that Sam was give an A rating by the NRA, that he received campaign contributions from the group and voted yes on concealed carry. Her ad also makes the point that this all occurred after Sandy Hook. These are facts.

The Whole Story

Sam was elected to office in 2012. It is correct that Yingling was in good standing with the NRA having had earned an “A” in 2016, was endorsed for re-election(1) and received campaign contributions(2) from the group. This all occurred AFTER Sandy Hook as accurately stated in Edly-Allen’s ad. There is more.

Todd Vandermyde is the primary NRA lobbyist who works the Illinois General Assembly to prevent sensible gun reform legislation. In 2016 he wrote of Yingling, “We have worked with Representative Yingling on a number of issues. And he voted for the suppressor bill which was a priority this session. As well as being opposed to the dealer licensing bill.” Vandermyde also said of Yingling, “You support those who have supported you. We can not go out and ask for their votes on our issues then turn around and not support them in an election.”(3)

In Sum – Sam’s Narrative About Himself is Convenient and Mary is Telling the Truth

Despite Yingling’s efforts to characterize himself as a “legislative leader” who is pure on guns, there is much that he has left out. While conjuring the imagery of Sandy Hook as done by Edly-Allen can be jarring, her messaging is consistent with the facts. Sam has recently been endorsed by those groups he cited, however his opponent was endorsed by them as well. The groups have endorsed virtually all Democratic legislative candidates.

It is uneqivocal that Sam’s record on guns is less than pure as confirmed by fact. Yingling sided with the NRA and did not change until recently. It is easy to draw a line between how he voted and the district turning more democratic. In the 31st State Senate District, there has been a demographic shift becoming more solidly blue over the recent years starting in 2018. That is just about when Sam began to court the gun-control groups and vote more in line with them on gun reform legislation. That is not principle or courage. Instead, that is calculation and well reflected in his ads.

We find Sam Yingling’s narratives around gun reform to be mostly false.