14th Congressional candidates take different approach to guns, police violence

For Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren, at least part of restoring mutual confidence between law enforcement and the public involves equipping both groups with a better understanding of how to interact with each other.

For Jim Walz, the Democratic challenger for the 14th Congressional District seat, the answer involves making it less likely police will encounter troubled individuals with guns as well as lifting communities who have a disproportionate number of interactions with the police by providing them with good-paying jobs.

"At the core of all of our issues here in America is the economy," Walz said. "We have to do something about creating a living wage for people."

Walz favors tax code reform to close loopholes, particularly those that result in corporations paying little to no federal taxes. He would support foreign trade policy reforms to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. He opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"Our trade policies have done nothing but export good-paying jobs and import lower wages," Walz said.

Walz also believes Congress must pass gun controls such as expanded background checks and the closing of the gun show loophole. Walz would vote to reinstitute the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

"I'm not looking to take anybody's guns away, but even the inventor of the (AR-15) recently said the intent for the weapon was strictly military, not for the general public to get their hand on," he said.

Hultgren said he favors reforms that make sure suspected terrorists or people on no-fly lists don't get access to weapons. But it must be a judge, not a government bureaucrat, who decides when someone loses the constitutional right to own a gun.

"It's a significant responsibility if someone is going to own a gun, but also to take away that right," Hultgren said. "It makes sense to have the courts be a part of this. They are, arguably, the least partisan and ought to be able to look at the facts and decide if somebody ought to have the right to access firearms."

Hultgren said all the recent fatal encounters between police and the public speak to a need to support and train police departments. He pointed to an emergency confrontation simulator used by the Sycamore Police Department as an example of the tools Congress could help provide to prepare law enforcement to make split-second decisions.

At the same time, political and other leaders must engage in community discussions that inform the public about how to interact with police.

"Law enforcement is an authority, and when they say something, do it," Hultgren said. "That is not the time to confront an officer, when you're face to face, or it's a dark street, or there's a car that's broken down, or it's a questionable situation. That's not the time to charge or yell or scream. Comply. Let's let the process work. And let's make sure the process works for everybody."

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