6th District Democrats Casten, Newman both support stricter gun laws

With America once again shaken by deadly mass shootings, the two leading Democratic candidates for Illinois' 6th Congressional District seat have renewed calls for stricter gun laws.

Incumbent Sean Casten of Downers Grove and challenger Marie Newman of La Grange talked about guns, crime and other issues with the Daily Herald in a joint online interview last week. A third Democratic candidate, Charles Hughes of Chicago, didn't respond to an invitation to the session.

Both Casten and Newman currently serve in Congress, with Newman representing the 3rd District.

Casten and Newman long have advocated for more federal gun control.

As he has in the past, Casten said there are too many guns in the U.S. Eliminating half the guns in the U.S. still would leave the nation with more firearms per person, on average, than any other country, he said - although a hard count isn't possible because no official record-keeping system for firearm ownership in the U.S. exists, according to the fact-checking website PolitiFact.

Casten said the history of guns in the U.S. is inseparable from the history of race here, and he suggested that the Constitution's militia clauses were written to give white slave owners - including many of the Founding Fathers - the ability to protect themselves from slave revolts.

"Who do you think they were worried about?" Casten said. "Understanding that history of guns is inseparable from understanding (the) history of race in this country."

Casten touted legislation he and two other Democratic lawmakers introduced last year that would require people to report if a gun is lost or stolen within 48 hours, as a way to battle illegal gun trafficking. Under the proposal, if a gun not reported lost or stolen subsequently is used in a crime, the registered owner could be held financially liable, Casten explained.

"It's sort of the same as what happens with your car," he said.

Newman noted that she was a gun safety advocate long before she first ran for Congress, marching and advocating for legislation across the country.

At the very least, the U.S. should require background checks for all would-be gun owners, Newman said. She went on to support red-flag laws that allow courts to temporarily seize firearms from anyone believed to be a danger to themselves or others, as well as a renewed ban on assault weapons.

Newman believes Republican support for such gun laws has grown since the assault on the U.S. Capitol in January 2021. The way to get such laws passed, she said, is for voters to elect senators who will support them.

Despite her advocacy for gun restrictions, Newman said she supports the 2nd Amendment. She also praised the National Rifle Association for its firearms education and training efforts before CEO Wayne LaPierre took leadership of the group in the 1990s and shifted its philosophy to fighting gun control.

"We had a great organization called the NRA, which was ... a supportive, very kind organization," she said.

When he ran two years ago, Casten voiced support for a national gun buyback program in the U.S. similar to the one implemented in Australia. At that time, he said background checks and assault weapons bans won't do anything to stop suicides with guns, and that having fewer guns in the U.S. is a better solution.

Casten is seeking a third term in Congress, while Newman is running for a second term.

The 6th District includes much of the West and Southwest suburbs in Cook and DuPage counties.

When the state's congressional districts were redrawn based on the 2020 census, Newman's home landed in the 4th District but is near the 6th.

The Republican candidates in the 6th District are Niki Conforti of Glen Ellyn, Rob Cruz of Oak Lawn, Gary Grasso of Burr Ridge, Scott Kaspar of Orland Park, Catherine A. O'Shea of Oak Lawn and Keith Pekau of Orland Park.

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