10th Democratic hopefuls divided on assault weapons
Both Democrats running for Illinois' 10th Congressional District seat are concerned about gun violence and the proliferation of military-style weapons in the United States, but they offer different approaches to solving the issues.
Nancy Rotering, the mayor of Highland Park, wants to outlaw the ownership of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines nationwide, just as her North Shore community has done.
Her opponent, former U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield, instead is focused on stopping the future sale of such weapons and accessories. He also favors implementing stricter background checks of prospective gun owners.
Schneider believes compromise on the issue is needed for meaningful legislation to pass. Rotering accused Schneider of not having "the spine" to stand up to the National Rifle Association, the country's most prominent gun-rights group.
Rotering and Schneider discussed gun rights and other issues side by side Wednesday in a endorsement interview with the Daily Herald. The winner of the March 15 Democratic primary will face Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Dold of Kenilworth in November's general election.
Schneider unseated Dold in 2012, but Dold retook the seat by beating Schneider in 2014.
Rotering, who's in her second term as mayor, said gun control is one of the issues that separates her from Schneider.
The Highland Park City Council adopted an assault weapons ban in 2013. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a legal challenge to the ordinance, a decision seen as a blow to gun-rights advocates who said such a ban violates the Second Amendment.
Rotering advocates a federal ban on assault weapons that wouldn't exclude firearms purchased before the law is enacted.
"That (exclusion) leaves millions of assault weapons in houses and in the hands of people," she said.
But she also said she doesn't want police "knocking on your door or checking in your window" in search of illegal guns.
Instead, people could voluntarily turn in illegal weapons at their local police station or relinquish them through buyback programs, she said.
When asked about enforcement efforts, Rotering said police who spot illegal guns during traffic stops or visits to a home on unrelated business should be allowed to confiscate the firearms.
"The Second Amendment is an important right within our nation, but at this point that conversation has skewed way to one side," Rotering said. "We've allowed the special interests and the NRA to dictate this conversation."
Although Schneider said he wishes all assault weapons could be eliminated, he acknowledged the political infeasibility of such a plan.
"I believe if we (want to) make progress we have to be pragmatic," he said. "Going into people's homes and taking away their guns for too many people is a non-starter."
Schneider said he supports universal background checks at stores and gun shows to ensure suspected terrorists, gang members, people with histories of domestic violence and people suffering from certain types of mental illness can't buy guns.
He called for stronger interstate gun-trafficking laws, too.
"An assault weapons ban is a good step -- but there's so much more we have to do," Schneider said. "There's no single solution. We have to have a holistic approach to this."
The 10th District includes parts of Cook and Lake counties. It stretches from Lake Michigan into the North and Northwest suburbs.