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Robin Kelly, elected to Congress to fight gun violence, must be feeling awfully frustrated

Kelly, a Democrat from Chicago’s South Side, recently introduced the Prevent Gun Trafficking Act, a law that would prohibit the straw purchase of firearms.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Illinois
Sun-Times Media

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, a Democrat, must be frustrated.

On the steam of her passion for gun control, Kelly was elected in 2013 to serve Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District, which stretches from Chicago’s South Side to Kankakee.

Yet the poisonous threads of gun violence continue to be embedded in the fabric of American life.

“I am devastated” by “each and every family” that has lost someone to gun violence, Kelly said gamely on Thursday, speaking at a virtual meeting of the City Club of Chicago, “and I am committed to advocating for policies and legislation that will help save lives and end this terrible epidemic.”

The epidemic is raging. Chicago is reeling from two horrific incidents involving guns. On March 29, police shot Adam Toledo, 13, in Little Village. He allegedly had a gun. Then on Tuesday, 21-month-old Kayden Swann was shot in the head in an apparent road rage incident on Lake Shore Drive. He is on life support at a Chicago hospital.

Every weekend, multiple murders and dozens of shootings torment our city.

As Kelly spoke on Thursday afternoon, President Joe Biden was appearing in the White House Rose Garden to announce plans for executive actions to restrict gun access.

One executive order would modify federal rules to curb homemade “ghost guns.” A second order would limit access to tools that can modify pistols to make them more lethal. Biden also intends to undergird “red flag” laws that can block dangerous individuals from getting guns.

Kelly applauded Biden for the steps “that he can take without legislation. Since we have such a hard time in getting things passed.”

Kelly recently introduced the Prevent Gun Trafficking Act, a federal law that would prohibit the straw purchase of firearms. Such legislation might attract bipartisan support in the House, but it faces dimmer prospects in the Senate.

Meanwhile, violence is reaching into the highest levels of our democracy. On Jan. 6, Kelly was in the House gallery as legislators were voting to certify the results of the November presidential election. As a mob of insurrectionists surged into the Capitol, Kelly and her colleagues were told to put on gas masks.

“I was,” she recalled, “on my hands and knees on the floor behind the wall that protects us from falling onto the House floor.”

The Capitol Police eventually led Kelly and others out to a secure location where, Kelly said, “we waited for many hours. It was terrifying and agonizing to walk through the hallways where one insurrectionist had just been killed, where we would later learn Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick had been murdered.”

Kelly, who was recently elected the new chair of the Illinois Democratic Party, said she works hard to reach out to Republicans to build support for gun control and other legislative measures. Yet Jan. 6 epitomizes why bipartisanship is so imperiled by our toxic politics.

“I’m not going to lie,” Kelly said, speaking about her fellow Democrats. “Jan. 6 did something to many of us.”

“We know that some of our (Republican House) colleagues were involved in that. They were giving speeches to the people that later, you know, came into the Capitol carrying the Confederate flag,” Kelly continued. “We saw who did not vote for President Biden’s, you know, election to be certified. It’s very difficult to work with people like that that. That are just being negative to be negative.”

Hear from U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, when they join Laura Washington and Chicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet for a live conversation At The Virtual Table this Thursday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m.

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