EDITORIAL: A slow change is churning among suburban Republicans on gun violence

SHARE EDITORIAL: A slow change is churning among suburban Republicans on gun violence
The Illinois State Capitol.

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

AP file

Candidates running in the November election are listening to you.

Many of them have been meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in endorsement interviews. They tell us about concerns you share when they knock on your doors to ask for your support.

They say you’re very worried about gun violence. Your kids fear a mass shooting could happen at their schools. You worry, too, that a shooting could break out when your child is at a movie theater or even in church.

You worry because it’s happening all over the country.

We get it. We published a campaign earlier this year, 31Bullets, to press for sensible solutions against gun violence.

As voters, you wield tremendous influence. When you tell lawmakers and candidates seeking office that you’re disturbed by the need for active shooter drills at schools, you’re putting pressure on them to do something to prevent mass shootings.


Gun violence prevention has been a longstanding piece of the Democratic Party platform. But Republicans in the Illinois Legislature are starting to get the message, too, likely to the chagrin of the National Rifle Association.

In the Illinois Legislature, a handful of GOP members are working with Democrats to produce bipartisan legislation aimed at reducing gun violence.

We say: Keep it up. Keep telling candidates they owe it to their communities to keep people safe. Remind the governor, too.

Next month, a bill that would help to prevent illegal gun trafficking and hold corrupt or careless gun dealers accountable is expected to reach Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. He has said he will veto it.

We’d like to remind him that a fellow Republican, state Sen. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst, worked with a Democrat, state Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park, to reach a compromise on the bill. They produced a bill that drew bipartisan support after Rauner vetoed a similar bill earlier this year. Democrats and Republicans came together to address the governor’s concerns. That’s the way the system is supposed to work.

Another Republican, Rep. Peter Breen of Lombard, voted for Nybo’s bill and worked with Democratic Rep. Kathleen Willis of Addison on another, the Firearms Restraining Order Act. It allows guns to be seized from people deemed dangers to themselves or others.

In July, Rauner signed that bill and one that requires a 72-hour waiting period for gun buys. Both bills passed with veto-proof majorities, which gave Rauner an extra incentive to sign on.

“This is exactly the direction we needed to move in,” Kathleen Sances, president and CEO of Gun Violence Prevention PAC in Arlington Heights, told us about the bipartisan efforts.

For the first time, she said, Illinois Republicans filled out her group’s candidate questionnaire. Only four did so, but in the past it was zilch, which speaks to the hold the Illinois State Rifle Association and the NRA have on the GOP.

“Bullets don’t have party affiliation,” Sances said. “We have to move beyond it.”

Dozens of Democrats are endorsed by the organization, along with four Republicans who helped to advance bipartisan legislation on gun violence — Breen, Nybo, state Sen. Tom Rooney of Rolling Meadows and state Sen. John Curran of Downers Grove.

Democrat Terra Costa Howard, left, and Republican Peter Breen, Ill. House nominees in the 48th District that includes part of DuPage County. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Democrat Terra Costa Howard, left, and Republican Peter Breen, Ill. House nominees in the 48th District that includes part of DuPage County. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

“I’m the only Republican in the House endorsed,” Breen boasted in his endorsement interview last week, adding that the NRA is “very unhappy” with him.

Breen’s opponent, Terra Costa Howard of Glen Ellyn, pointed out that her support of measures against gun violence goes further back than Breen’s. She’s no Johnny-come-lately.

We could get used to this: a spirited discussion between a Republican and Democrat who agree on commonsense solutions to protect people against gun violence. It is always welcome.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

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