The national conversation around gun control, already roaring with teenage anger, got louder today when retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment.
But while the 2nd Amendment trended online on Tuesday, city and state officials were occupied with gun and body armor reforms closer to home.
The gun dealer licensing bill was vetoed earlier this month by Gov. Bruce Rauner, but lawmakers haven’t given up on the legislation.
Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, a sponsor of the bill, said Democrats need 71 votes to override Rauner’s veto, and they had 64 when the bill passed the house in March. In the Senate, Democrats need six more votes.
“We’re continuing to work, we have Moms Demand Action constantly talking to legislators that are on the cusp, hopefully we can convince them that this is a bill they need to support,” Willis said. “Specifically looking at the suburban legislators, I’m really calling on a lot of my colleagues to step up. DuPage, Will, Kane, those collar counties. They all need to take a stance on this.”
Members of the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee heard testimony from community members affected by gun violence.
Mille Burgos lost her 18-year-old daughter, Alexandria Burgos, to gun violence in 2014. She sobbed as she shared the story of her daughter, who was killed by a stray bullet that came in through a kitchen window and shot her in the head.
“Her dreams ended because all the easy accessibility to guns out there. People that shouldn’t have guns for however reason, however way, they are getting them,” Burgos said.
Gayinga Washington, a teacher at an after-school program in Austin, said she went to a funeral over the weekend for a close friend, Darnell Simmons, who was shot and killed.
“This is something that we can’t just continue to point fingers at people and ‘Oh he didn’t do this.’ Excuse me, over the weekend, I know personally of five people that were killed by gun violence while we’re squabbling about who didn’t do what,” Washington said.
John Weber, Illinois Liaison for the National Rifle Association, urged the House members not to override the veto, saying it unfairly burdens small businesses and is redundant when dealers are already required to be federally licensed.
“This legislation is crafted by people that are hostile to the 2nd amendment,” Weber said. “Because it’s inappropriate burdens on the exercise of a constitutional right and it also has the effect if enacted of putting even more Illinois employers out of business.”
Chicago Police Deputy Chief of Organized Crime, Dana Alexander, testified in favor of overriding the veto.
“Although gun dealers are licensed by the federal government, federal resources for oversight and enforcement are stretched thin,” Alexander said. “Licensing at the state level would allow local law enforcement and our state partners to step in to more closely oversee activities of gun dealers.”
Rep. Juliana Stratton, D-Chicago, noted that gun violence, though concentrated in some communities, has a widespread impact.
“When we look across the street out the window, we are looking at the place where Commander Bauer was murdered,” Stratton said. “It affects our communities, it affects different parts of the state … we are all affected by violence.”
Also on Tuesday, the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety approved an ordinance championed by a pair of powerful aldermen banning the sale and possession of body armor in Chicago.
But not before Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th) agreed to amend the ordinance on the fly to exempt firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and retired emergency responders.
“The tragic shooting death of Commander Paul Bauer on Feb. 13 in the very shadow of the building we now occupy by a heavily armed repeat offender clad in body armor, underscores the need for regulation of these items,” said Burke, who joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) in sponsoring the ban.
“In the case of the armed assailant who killed Commander Bauer, he was wearing a jacket that concealed the bullet-proof vest. And it was not the first time that individual had been seized and charged with the unlawful possession of a firearm and body armor. It occurred in 2007.”
He added, “One might pose the question: Who leaves their home or place of business wearing body armor expecting to engage in an armed confrontation if not the hard-core criminal or a deranged mass shooter with deadline intent.”
The Committee on Public Safety also amended Chicago’s existing ban on assault weapons to include bump stocks.