A sobering art installation went up at Daley Plaza last week that reminds us how foolishly easy it is for almost anyone to obtain powerful weapons.
Built to resemble a bike-sharing station, where customers are free to grab a bike whenever they want, it holds a lineup of 10 replica AR-15 rifles. Grab a gun, it seems to suggest. Whenever you want.
The artwork raises important questions. Do we really need access to insanely powerful rifles on a whim? Do we really need to be a nation devastated by a level of gun violence that no other industrialized country experiences?
The installation, which was commissioned by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, is an apt symbol of what’s at stake as the Illinois Legislature prepares to grapple in the coming week with legislation designed to reduce gun violence.
We mention the artwork as the Chicago Sun-Times — through our own campaign called “31 bullets” — takes part in the effort to reduce the gun violence that is destroying our country. This editorial, along with others we have written and will continue to write, will identify 31 ways in which Illinois and the nation can reduce gun violence and save lives. As part of the campaign, we include a video that you can view or share on YouTube.
We’re adding bullets daily to our website at 31bullets.suntimes.com, a joint project with the communications firm Ogilvy & Mather Chicago. Here are ones that have particular significance for Illinoisans this week:
Bullet 11: Gun Violence Protective Orders
• On Tuesday, the Illinois House is expected to hold a hearing on a bipartisan bill that would allow family members and law enforcement officials to petition the courts to temporarily remove firearms from the homes of people who are a danger to themselves or others. This is a commonsense proposal that should have been on the books long ago. Family members and law enforcement often are aware of people in distress who should not have access to firearms until they have resolved their troubles.
In March, the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center reported that 79 percent of mass attackers in 2017 had “made concerning communications and/or elicited concern from others.” Family members or local law enforcement generally are the people who know about those “concerning communications,” but they have no legal tools in Illinois to do anything about it. This law would provide an effective tool.
• A related bill in the Senate that could be called for a full vote this week would require that anyone who agrees to accept guns that have been removed from someone in distress sign an affidavit saying they would not return the guns without legal clearance.
The Senate bill would deal with cases such as that of Travis J. Reinking, who was arrested recently in the shooting deaths of four people at a Waffle House in Nashville. Authorities had taken away his firearms, including an AR-15, last July, but the Tazewell County, Illinois, sheriff’s department handed them over to Reinking’s father. Nashville police say the father later gave the weapons back to his son.
Requiring an affidavit would make it less likely guns would wind up where they started, in the hands of a person in distress who shouldn’t have them.
Bullet 14: Trigger cranks
• “Trigger cranks” and “bump stocks” are attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire more quickly, making them more like a machine gun.
A trigger crank attaches to the trigger guard of a semi-automatic rifle, allowing the shooter to rotate the crank and fire three rounds of ammunition per rotation. A bump stock lets semi-automatic guns fire shots more rapidly. Las Vegas mass murderer Stephen Paddock last October used bump stocks to kill and wound more people than he could have with weapons that were only semiautomatic.
Trigger cranks and bump stocks have no use other than to kill as many people as possible. A bill to ban bump stocks and trigger cranks in Illinois has passed the Senate and is scheduled to be the subject of a committee hearing in the House this week.
Illinois needs to take a stand against the proliferation of gun violence. These bills would help us do it.
Send suggestions about ways to curb gun violence to firstname.lastname@example.org.