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updated: 4/18/2014 5:23 AM

Gun owners fill Roselle meeting, but guns not the focus

But gun control debate wasn't the focus in Roselle

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  • Dan Kotowski

      Dan Kotowski

  • Michelle Mussman

      Michelle Mussman

  • It was a packed room as state Sen. Dan Kotowski and state Rep. Michelle Mussman responded to questions during a Thursday night town hall meeting in Roselle. Gun owners had been urged by the Illinois State Rifle Association to attend the gathering, which the group called a "gun control recruitment meeting."

       It was a packed room as state Sen. Dan Kotowski and state Rep. Michelle Mussman responded to questions during a Thursday night town hall meeting in Roselle. Gun owners had been urged by the Illinois State Rifle Association to attend the gathering, which the group called a "gun control recruitment meeting."
    Robert Sanchez | Staff Photographer

  • State Sen. Dan Kotowski and state Rep. Michelle Mussman respond to questions from residents during a Thursday night town hall meeting in Roselle.

       State Sen. Dan Kotowski and state Rep. Michelle Mussman respond to questions from residents during a Thursday night town hall meeting in Roselle.
    Robert Sanchez | Staff Photographer

 
 

A debate about gun control never materialized during a Thursday night town hall meeting after the crowd dominated by gun rights activists instead vented about pensions, income taxes and a variety of other state issues.

It was the outcome state Sen. Dan Kotowski was hoping for after the Illinois State Rifle Association this week released an alert that called the gathering at Roselle Village Hall a "gun control recruitment meeting."

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"I look forward to hearing feedback from people," Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, said before the event. "To portray this meeting as something other than that is deliberately deceitful and irresponsible."

Rifle association Executive Director Richard Pearson said members were urged to attend the meeting because Kotowski is a former executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.

"We know it (the meeting) is going to be about guns because that's what he's about," Pearson said. "He's an anti-gun guy who has pushed for gun control measures."

Because of the alert, more than 100 people packed the village board room Thursday night. Pearson said members of his group were there "to challenge" Kotowski if the issue of guns was raised.

But it was a member of the audience -- not Kotowski -- who first brought up the topic.

Steve Zahareas of Schaumburg accused Kotowski of liking every anti-gun proposal that lands on his desk.

"You are looking to restrict our rights and to where we can carry and to protect our children," Zahareas said to Kotowski. "If you were really for the safety of your constituents, you wouldn't be pushing for some of the things that you have been pushing for."

Kotowski said he supports people's right to own a firearm.

"But I have supported initiatives to try our best to keep children and families and law enforcement safe," he said. "Now we may have a difference of opinion on some fronts, and that's fine. That's what happens in a democracy."

Zahareas told Kotowski that he's disappointed about the state senator filing legislation to prohibit carrying a gun in places of worship. That's because gun owners who have concealed carry permits are law-abiding citizens who have been trained, he said.

"If you really care about your children and my children," Zahareas said, "you will have less restrictions -- not more restrictions."

Kotowski said he pursues legislation after getting feedback from constituents. He said there's some people he represents who believe restrictions are needed.

Kotowski and state Rep. Michelle Mussman, a Schaumburg Democrat, then invited everyone to talk about other state and local issues.

And members of the crowd did.

In fact, most of the town hall meeting ended up having nothing to do with guns. Topics touched on during the wide-ranging discussion include salaries and benefits for politicians, jobs, gambling and the Affordable Care Act.

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