Legislators and gun control advocates united Sunday afternoon to discuss and rally around state and federal gun control legislation being considered in the Illinois General Assembly and U.S. Congress. Progress Illinois was there for the unifying, and at points emotional, event.
Steve Young (pictured), a member of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Evanston, held up a photo yesterday of his late son Andrew in front of the nearly 500 people packed inside of Chicago Sinai Congregation’s sanctuary.
Andrew was shot and killed in 1996 when he was 19 years old.
“He was killed by a teenager with a gun originally purchased for a convicted murderer by a straw purchaser, who later went to prison for buying over 200 guns for people who couldn’t pass a background check,” Young told the crowd.
Young was one of many people who shared their personal stories at Sunday’s gun-violence accountability assembly, “Do Not Stand Idly By,” sponsored by United Power for Action and Justice, a non-partisan community group made up of about 40 Cook County religious congregations, health care and community organizations.
A handful of Illinois’ elected officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton, stood in solidarity with United Power members who called for sensible federal and state gun control measures and demanded firearm manufacturers adopt responsible codes of conduct, among other gun-violence prevention efforts.
The meeting comes just days after a federal assault weapons ban made its way out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, although the ban is not expected to clear the full Senate.
United Power wants limits placed on gun sales to criminals and restrictions on civilian access to military grade weapons and ammunition, while also preserving and protecting legitimate gun ownership rights.
The group demanded gun manufactures and sellers also help curb gun violence by supporting community-based efforts and working with authorities in any way possible to prevent guns from getting into the hands of criminals, among other pledges.
“We need to get them to be part of the solution rather than continuing to be part of the problem,” Greg Pierce, a Chicago United Power member, said about the 117 gun manufacturers in the United States.
In order to gain more leverage on the issue, Pierce and other United Power members asked the elected officials who attended the assembly for their help and to set up meetings with potential allies.
The impact of gun violence is something Oak Park United Power member DiAne Boese said she knows all too well.
She was accidentally shot in the face when she was 3 years old.
“I survived, and I don’t take that for granted,” Boese said, adding that she has spent her lifetime dealing with the physical, emotional and financial trauma of the accident.
Gun violence isn’t just a problem — it’s a crisis, she added.
“We want to work on real strategies that are practical and meaningful,” Boese told the crowd. “We want solutions, and we very much believe that we can make a difference, and we begin making a difference through legislation and leverage.”
There are a few pieces of active legislation United Power supports, including two state bills, HB 1143 and SB 1171, that aim to amend Illinois’ Firearm Owners Identification Card Act to require background checks for all gun sales, including those in private or secondary markets.
State Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) is the main sponsor of the Senate bill.
Here’s more from State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), the main sponsor of HB 1143, about a recent gun debate in the House:
The group also supports the Prevention of Gun Trafficking Act, HB 2592, which would require any person in Illinois whose firearm has been lost or stolen to report it to State Police.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Esther Golar (D-Chicago), would also force Illinois residents to register each firearm they own or possess. Any person buying, selling, transferring or leasing firearms or ammunition would also have to obtain a state dealer permit.
Members of the Illinois General Assembly are also grappling with drafting new concealed carry legislation, which needs to be put in place by June 9.
Illinois is the last state to prohibit concealed carrying of firearms, but a December ruling by the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found the state’s ban to be unconstitutional.
Cullerton talked more about the fate of concealed carry in Illinois:
Meanwhile, Gov. Quinn continues to push for an assault weapons ban in the state.
Here’s more from Quinn on that issue:
At the federal level, United Power approves of the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, S.54, which would prohibit the trafficking and straw purchases of firearms. Violators could face up to 25 years in jail if the measure is approved. Both Illinois U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk co-sponsor the bill.
United Power also agrees with the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013, S.374, requiring background checks on all gun purchases and closing of the “private sale loophole.”
Boese said the state and federal bills are important because they directly affect gun purchases by those who would normally not be able to legally purchase a firearm.
“We know that 40 percent of U.S. gun sales are conducted by unlicensed, private sellers,” she said. “These are people who sell guns at guns shows and on the Internet.”
She added that nearly 6.6 million guns are transferred in the United States each year without buyer background checks.
U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) and Brad Schneider (D-Deerfield) also vowed to help United Power in its efforts.
Schakowsky said for years, the National Rifle Association has had the “field to themselves,” but this time it’s different.
“People all over this country ... are finally standing up and saying, ‘You will face us if you vote wrong,’” she said.
United Power members will hold an advocacy day in Springfield around its gun-violence accountability campaign April 11.