Too many shootings, too little support for gun safety

Illinois must stay the course on addressing gun violence, and the rest of the nation should follow. So should Congress. Federal laws are critical, since crime guns can easily move across state borders.

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Investigators look over the scene of an overnight mass shooting at a strip mall in Willowbrook on June 18.

Investigators look over the scene of an overnight mass shooting at a strip mall in Willowbrook on June 18.

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A summer weekend of gun violence, here and across the nation, underscores the importance of continuing to work to reduce carnage from firearms.

Illinois has recently enacted a number of gun-safety measures, but some have been in effect only a short time or have not yet even gone into effect. The state needs to stay the course to ensure the new laws are given a chance to work. Meanwhile, other states should follow Illinois’ example.

So should Congress, where, unfortunately, many lawmakers seem bent increasing the number of gun victims. Last week, for example, House Republicans were busy trying to repeal a rule to tighten regulations on “stabilizing braces” for firearms, accessories that have been used to spread carnage in mass shootings. But what Congress really needs to do is take the lead on gun safety.

State laws are important, but crime guns can, and do, easily move from one state to another — as in Chicago, where many guns used in crimes originate from illegal trafficking.

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Moreover, in the absence of federal laws, leaders in some states are opening the door to more gun violence, enacting such laws as allowing people to openly carry weapons of war in public and removing any training restrictions before people can start carrying guns. In April, for example, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law to allow Florida residents to carry concealed guns without a permit. On March 28, less than two weeks before a Louisville mass shooting, Kentucky banned local law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal gun laws.

Look at the past weekend to see where that kind of thinking has gotten us:

In suburban Willowbrook, a man was killed and 23 were hurt in an early Sunday shooting. On Father’s Day, two people were killed and three were wounded in a shooting at a family gathering at a Roseland park.

Altogether, 75 people were shot, 13 of them fatally, over the weekend in Chicago, police said.

In Washington State, two people were killed and three others were hurt on Saturday night when, according to police, someone shot randomly at dance music festival attendees. In St. Louis, one person was killed and nine were injured early on Sunday. In Milwaukee, four people were killed and two were hurt at a Monday Juneteenth celebration. In Idaho, four people were killed over the weekend, allegedly by a neighbor. In central Pennsylvania, a state trooper was killed and another was critically wounded after a gunman attacked a state police barracks on Saturday.

Anyone who wants to be a police officer generally has to undergo psychiatric testing to ensure they will be responsible with guns. But members of the public who want to tote an assault weapon, amid crowds of people out to enjoy a sunny day? Not so much.

We live in a different world these days. People who used to blithely go about their everyday lives now warily keep their eyes out for someone with a gun and look for the best ways to hide or get away when they attend crowded events. Summers aren’t just a time of backyard grilling and basking at the beach anymore. Guns are everywhere.

More than many states, Illinois has been working to make people safer. It has banned the sale of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and attachments that turn firearms into automatic weapons. It has required universal background checks even for private gun sales, and helped state police seize guns from people with revoked firearm licenses. It has banned “ghost guns” and has enacted a “red flag” law that allows for temporarily removing guns from the possession of those who are a danger to themselves or others.

Illinois also will require licensing for firearms dealers and will continue to provide money for gun violence prevention. On Monday, interim Chicago Police Supt. Fred Waller discussed the ways the city is trying to reduce crime.

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But gun safety advocates say Illinois needs better cooperation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to more quickly get gun-tracing statistics that would help show if new laws are providing the expected safety benefits, and whether additional laws could help.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 20,000 shootings of all types nationwide this year. Reducing that number should be a national priority.

But the issue has been, shall we say, weaponized. Too many people and politicians refuse to even talk about steps that could make Americans safer.

That has to change. America cannot continue to be a nation in which people live in constant fear of guns.

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