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Gun violence in Chicago and Illinois: Hopefully courts can force Legislature to act

Some children live in a world where guns come ahead of their safety and emotional health. We’re hoping two new court rulings can help straighten this out.

Chicago police investigate in the 1800 block of South Drake after an officer was struck by another police vehicle while pursuing a suspect who had thrown a gun out of a car on the West Side on Oct. 11.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Two recent court rulings should create an impetus for Illinois to do more to restrict the illegal and irresponsible use of guns.

In the case of Powell v. State of Illinois, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Gottschall is allowing a lawsuit to proceed that would force the state to use its regulatory authority to make it harder for criminals to get guns. If the plaintiffs win, Illinois could be required to enact stricter gun laws, just as defenders of guns have successfully used the courts to weaken restrictions on guns.

In the second case, Remington Arms v. Soto, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for the families of the victims in one of our nation’s worst mass shootings — Sandy Hook — to sue the company that manufactured and marketed a gun used in the shooting. The plaintiffs hope that the legal discovery process in this case might shed light on what gunmakers know about how badly their products impact public health.

For kids’ sake

The Chicago plaintiffs in the case that Gottschall is allowing to move forward argue that incessant gun violence in some neighborhoods causes psychological harm to children. That’s the federal civil rights argument the plaintiffs believe should force the state to take action.

Specifically — among other reforms — the plaintiffs are calling for the creation of a “do not sell” list that generally would prevent people who have bought a gun that was used in a crime from buying another. That change in the law could cut down on the number of straw purchasers who buy firearms for others who can’t legally buy a gun on their own.

The plaintiffs also seek a court-enforced requirement that when someone’s Firearm Owner’s Identification Card has been revoked, the Illinois State Police will make a full-bore effort to collect that person’s guns and FOID card. As things go now, the state police make little attempt.

A proposed bill in Springfield along these lines — a legislative branch effort to achieve similar sensible policing of who can possess a gun — has been stalled.

We don’t know where this case will end up. The legal arguments are untested. But the federal suit tells a compelling story about how the constant reality of gun violence in some communities — at home, in the neighborhood and at school — is making life miserable for children.

Chicago Sun-Times: SOURCE: Chicago Police Department

Among the plaintiffs are “D.P.,” who was 8 years old at the time of the suit was filed in 2018, and “M.P.,” who was then 2 years old. The siblings lost their father in a 2016 West Garfield Park shooting when D.P. was in kindergarten.

A CPS employee was killed at D.P.’s school in 2016, and an older classmate was killed in 2017. In just the first six months of 2018, there were four shootings within two blocks of the children’s Austin neighborhood home, including a fatality. Gunshots can be heard on most nights.

The lawsuit contends that D.P. suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

We can only think, ‘Who wouldn’t have PTSD?’

Numb to the violence?

The two court rulings come at a time when American society seems to be growing increasingly inured to gun violence.

After a shooting on Oct. 30 in Long Beach, California, in which three people were killed and nine others were wounded, a Los Angeles Times editorial writer lamented that few people even seemed to notice, let alone express outrage.

Eight people were shot on Thursday in Chicago; it’s a story we hear so often that, unless it affects us personally, we turn the page and move on.

Regardless, lawmakers need to keep the following in mind: It is the job of the State of Illinois to protect children. The state — by law, the state Constitution and custom — is every child’s guardian of last resort.

And yet D.P. and M.P. live in a world where guns, not the safety and emotional health of children, have come first. Let’s hope the courts can straighten this out.

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