Three candidates in 6th Congressional District debate guns, racism and more in online forum

Editor's note: Ives was referring to state laws, not federal, when she said the U.S. already has universal background checks for gun purchases, a campaign spokeswoman said after the event.

The three candidates for Illinois' 6th Congressional District seat debated climate change, racism, gun control and more Monday night in their only scheduled joint forum ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove, Republican challenger Jeanne Ives of Wheaton and Libertarian Bill Redpath of West Dundee participated in the online event, which was hosted by suburban chapters of the League of Women Voters.

The contest largely is between Casten, a freshman who formerly ran an energy recycling company, and Ives, a former state representative and onetime gubernatorial candidate. Redpath, who made several unsuccessful bids for elected office in Virginia before moving to Illinois last year, noted he's a longshot.

When Casten ran for office in 2018, climate change was his top issue. When asked about it Monday, he said "the science is totally settled" and insisted dealing with it is "the challenge of a lifetime." He called for investment in a massive research and development program to ease America's reliance on fossil fuels.

Ives acknowledged that climate changes, but stopped short of saying it's man-made.

"It was hotter 20,000 years ago, 4,000 years ago, 1,000 years ago," she said.

She opposed the environmental plan dubbed the Green New Deal and opposed subsidizing energy industries "that have failed time and time again."

Redpath acknowledged climate changes and said it probably is man-made "to a certain extent. But the issue is a problem, he said, not a crisis.

"We can adjust to this," Redpath said.

The candidates were asked if they support universal background checks for would-be gun buyers and a new ban on assault weapons.

Redpath opposed such a ban, calling it "cosmetic." In contrast, he supported creating a law that would ensure criminal background checks for all customers.

Casten voiced support for both proposals. A vocal advocate of stricter gun laws, Casten said the U.S. has too many privately owned firearms.

"We have gone completely gun crazy in this country," Casten said.

Ives didn't support either proposal. "We're not actually enforcing the gun laws that we currently have on the books," she said.

Ives said the U.S. already has universal background checks. That's true in 13 of the 50 states. In states without such laws, unlicensed sellers who do transactions online, at gun shows or privately don't have to perform background checks on buyers.

Racism has been a hot topic in the U.S. this year, and a question about systemic racism drew disparate responses.

Casten noted he's marched with protesters in several suburbs and said he's glad people finally are talking about racism.

Ives said Americans must be treated equally to put an end to systemic racism. But she pointed to the treatment of people who've participated in recent rioting and looting as examples of inequality.

Redpath said he doesn't believe American society is inherently racist. "We are in a far better place than we were, say, 60 years ago," he said.

Still, to promote racial equality, Redpath said the U.S. should cease the war on drugs and end qualified immunity policies so police officers will be better held accountable for wrongdoing, among other steps.

A video recording of the forum should be available Tuesday on the Glen Ellyn League of Women Voters' YouTube channel.

Casten and Ives will appear together in a few other forums before Election Day. Redpath isn't scheduled to participate in those events.

The 6th District includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.

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