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posted: 1/8/2013 5:00 AM

20 years later, we haven't learned

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By Rita Mullins

On the 20th anniversary of the Brown's Chicken massacre in Palatine, what has changed? Our innocence was lost after seven people were murdered that snowy January night. Yes, it spurred a federal assault weapons ban and reduced the number of federally licensed gun dealers by raising fees. Still, though, there are only about 350 ATF agents employed for the entire nation. And Congress allowed the laws to lapse; it never closed the gun show loophole that lets buyers purchase up to 49 guns without a background check.

It's not about money, some may say. But it is the money. It is the big business of manufacturing guns that perpetuates the lifeblood of our elected officials -- funds for political campaigns or to counter NRA attacks. Our Bill of Rights states that American citizens have the right to bear arms for a well-regulated militia. The arms of 1791 consisted of one lead ball and powder ammunition. Guns have always been part of American culture for game hunting and defense. But no one hunts game with a handheld machine gun, and if your neighbor buys the newest tank do you go and buy one with a pivotal flame thrower? We become civilized when we check our guns outside of town and respectable when we build a church or a school.

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It's not the guns that are the problem, others may say. But it is the guns. They are machines for killing more people faster, but there is more oversight for making a toaster than for guns. If you are electrocuted or your house catches fire, the manufacturer is liable. When a human killing machine does its job, who bears the responsibility?

We as Americans must pay attention to what's happening now, but also what happened in Palatine on Jan. 8, 1993. Two young men tortured and murdered seven souls doing their everyday tasks at work. A restaurant owner and his wife, an immigrant father, a former sailor, a twin brother and two high school kids lost their lives because the perpetrators wanted to do "something big."

Why is it that some glorify murdering with a gun as "something big"? Why do we as a society glorify it? Personally, I think cowards fight with a gun. They drive by with the safety and anonymity of hiding in a car.

Congress needs to stop playing political football and do its job. "My team will win, your team will lose" doesn't cut it anymore. Their goals are on opposite ends of the field. Please come together for a common goal: life! It starts with reducing the availability of mass-killing machines. There are laws that have decreased the number of senseless auto-related deaths: seat belts, air bags, crash-resistant frames and DUI prosecution. Why do we let the gun industry off the hook?

Former U.S. Rep. John Porter and Sen. Mark Kirk both have stepped up on gun control. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been leading the way as an advocate for sensible gun laws with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Just because the atomic bomb was invented, we do not offer it for sale. Just because fast-firing, big-clip killing machines are manufactured does not mean the public has a right to own one.

It's the money and it's the guns. God, bless America.

• Rita Mullins was mayor of Palatine from 1989 to 2009.

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