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Close loopholes in Illinois gun laws. Save lives

Illinois can’t stop all the crime guns that flow into the state, but it can keep some firearms out of the hands of criminals.

Chicago police work the scene where a 15-year-old boy was critically wounded in a shooting in an alleyway near the 6600 block of South May Avenue in the Englewood neighborhood on May 12.
Chicago police work the scene where a 15-year-old boy was critically wounded in a shooting in an alleyway near the 6600 block of South May Avenue in the Englewood neighborhood on May 12.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

After a weekend in which gunfire killed 12 people and injured 42 in Chicago alone, the Legislature really ought to do something. Shootings in the city are up by 36% over a year ago.

Illinois can’t stop all the crime guns that flow into the state, but it can keep some firearms out of the hands of the criminals who take so many lives and hurt so many. Legislation known as the Block Illegal Ownership bill would close some of the loopholes. In 2020, it passed in the Illinois House, but the Senate failed to act on it during the pandemic.

Gun safety advocates are planning a press conference and a digital day of action on Thursday with gun violence survivors to try to get the BIO bill across the finish line. If they fail, it could be another two years before the Legislature takes another serious look at the legislation. There’s always an election coming up or some other excuse not to act.

Chicago and Illinois can’t afford that kind of delay. As the Legislature has dragged its feet, horror story has followed horror story. A man shot during a carjacking after changing a tire for a mother and her little children. A 15-year-old rapper gunned down. An 86-year-old woman shot in the foot while watering her lawn. A 16-year-old girl shot while sitting in a car. A couple shot at a stop sign. People shot on the expressways. Drive-by shootings.

All in the past few days.

All just a small part of the mayhem of gunfire terrorizing entire communities.

The BIO bill has several components, but the two most critical are requiring mandatory fingerprints for people getting Firearms Owners Identification cards and universal background checks by a federally licensed gun dealer for person-to-person sales. Those measures can help stop criminals from getting easy access to guns.

Other loopholes need to be closed as well, but the BIO bill is something the Legislature can do right now. Chicago just had its worst weekend of shootings this year, and everyone is worried about the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, often a time of heightened gun violence.

We don’t know how many lives might have been saved in the two years the Legislature has failed to act. We do know there’s no justification for adding to the toll of the dead and wounded by continuing to delay.

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