Schneider calls for tighter gun control laws, while Ramirez Mukherjee voices concerns

Both candidates for Illinois' 10th Congressional District seat shared stories about gun violence in their families while discussing gun control legislation Tuesday.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield told a much-repeated story about how he was named in Hebrew after a great-uncle who was shot to death.

Republican challenger Valerie Ramirez Mukherjee of Northbrook revealed that her father threatened her mother with a gun, prompting her to leave him. Ramirez Mukherjee said she was a baby at the time.

The candidates told their tales during a joint online video interview with the Daily Herald.

But while Schneider is a longtime proponent of stricter gun control and has supported several legislative proposals, Ramirez Mukherjee noted she's "still learning on this issue."

Schneider is seeking a fourth term in the House in the Nov. 3 election. Ramirez Mukherjee runs a family investment business and is making her first bid for public office.

Schneider called gun control "a personal issue" because his uncle was gunned down in 1943.

"A (man) walked into his office, shot him four times and then called the police and sat while he bled to death," Schneider said. "When I talk to my family about it, it's as raw today, 70-plus years later, as it was yesterday."

Schneider noted he supported legislation the House passed last year that would require background checks for all would-be gun buyers as well as a bill seeking to close a legal loophole enabling some firearms to be sold by licensed gun dealers before background checks have been completed.

Schneider also wants a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons, and he said he's "leading the charge" against the National Rifle Association after the release of reports about its leaders' spending practices and possible abuse of its tax-exempt status.

"I've been at the forefront of this issue, and I will continue to be at the forefront of this issue and work to try to make sure we reduce gun violence in our cities and in our country," Schneider said.

Ramirez Mukherjee said her mother only recently told her about her late father's violence.

"The night that she decided to leave him, she was asking him to feed me a bottle," Ramirez Mukherjee said. "He pulled a gun (and) put it to her temple."

Even so, Ramirez Mukherjee said when she moved to Illinois from Washington state in 2017, she felt safer "knowing that probably a lot of my neighbors have guns."

As for gun legislation, Ramirez Mukherjee noted she's "new to this conversation."

She said she'd support universal background checks if she's confident the system is secure and would work. But she also voiced concern about criminals hacking into gun-related databases and posited that criminals aren't going to submit to proper checks before getting guns.

When specifically asked her stance on banning assault weapons, Ramirez Mukherjee opposed gun bans "for law-abiding citizens" if criminals still would have access to those guns.

"There has to be a better way," she said. "We've got to talk about something else."

In addition to guns, the candidates discussed the COVID-19 crisis, racism, mail-in voting and other issues during the 75-minute interview.

The 10th District includes parts of Lake and Cook counties. It stretches from Lake Michigan into the North and Northwest suburbs.

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