The day after the U.S. Senate held a nationally watched hearing on gun control, a freshman congressman brought the issue home with a Thursday morning round-table in Wheeling.
Tenth District Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider, of Deerfield, told law enforcement officials, mental health workers, gun owners and suburban mayors that the North suburban 10th District has a unique voice in the national debate because of its independent, moderate electorate.
“There's a reason (Sen.) Mark Kirk comes from this district and can talk about making gun trafficking illegal,” Schneider said.
Kirk, a Highland Park Republican and former five-term congressman, Wednesday unveiled legislation that for the first time would make gun trafficking a federal crime.
“You're not going to be hounded in the 10th District as you would in Southern Illinois,” Brady Campaign board member Tom Vanden Berk said of speaking out in support of gun control.
Federal gun control rules on the books were something that round-table participants, despite offering different vantage points, largely agreed would help hold offenders to a uniform set of penalties and responsibilities across the country.
“In Wheeling, you're required to register your bike and dog — but not your gun,” Police Chief William Benson said.
North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham told the group that in 2011 alone, 112 guns were pulled off the streets of his city.
They included rifles, shotguns and .38-caliber handguns.
“We have to start focusing on the youth that are out there, and try to get to them at a younger age,” he said.
Evelyn Chenier, executive director of Lake County's Family First Center, works with teens involved in gangs.
“I've spoken to young people who say it's not even an issue to get a gun,” Chenier said. “They get someone who doesn't have a felony, and get them to get it for them. And then they are going to call and report it lost.”
She called the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., “a catalyst to effect change.”
“It's only fair that we join together. As an African-American, I don't want to lose any rights we've earned. But I don't mind being inconvenienced if it's possibly going to save a child's life.”
Schneider, who supports instituting universal background checks for gun sales, banning armor-piercing bullets and expanding access to mental health care, said this will not be the last event his office organizes around the issue.
“I've been going around the district,” he said. “People stop me in the grocery store, at lunch, fairly regularly and sometimes even get in my face and say you have to do something about guns.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.