Democratic Congressional hopefuls talk gun control
The best chance of enacting stronger gun control laws in the U.S. is having a Democratic majority in Congress, say the Democratic candidates running for their party's nomination in the 8th Congressional District.
The three candidates -- state Sen. Michael Noland, Villa Park Mayor Deborah Bullwinkel and Schaumburg businessman Raja Krishnamoorthi -- all pledge that, if elected, gun control will be an important part of their agenda.
Krishnamoorthi said he respects the rights of gun owners to hunt, engage in marksmanship and otherwise use firearms in lawful ways.
"That's not an issue for debate," he said. "The real issue is how do we keep guns out of the hands of people who would use them to harm other people."
Krishnamoorthi said a Democratic majority in Congress is the best way to get the ball rolling on stronger gun control.
But he believes moderate Republican voters and legislators also recognize the need to respond to changing times.
"We have a gun violence epidemic raging in Chicago," Krishnamoorthi said.
His company founded a charity to get inner-city kids excited about their futures, but these are the same students experiencing the gun violence epidemic up close, he added.
"If you don't make them safe, nothing else matters," Krishnamoorthi said.
Bullwinkel was a child when a family friend, a store owner nearing retirement, was shot to death in a robbery. A rare occurrence at the time, such tragedies have become more commonplace, she said.
"I know there is concern on both sides of the aisle about this sea of violence," Bullwinkel said, echoing Krishnamoorthi. "We've said, 'Enough is enough,' but we need to put those words into action."
Noland, meanwhile, said he's the only candidate of the three to actually negotiate a gun control bill into law.
When Illinois was forced by the Supreme Court to pass a concealed carry law, Noland worked a mental health provision into the legislation that he says is as far-reaching as any in the 50 states.
This provision allows state police to take the reports of third parties into account when considering the mental fitness of people applying for gun ownership.
Such a provision should be embraced by the entire country, Noland said.
He believes the biggest obstacle to change is not most gun owners but the gun industry and the Republican politicians it courts.
"We as progressives have to really be there in the Congress to make a difference," Noland said. "You'll need not only a Democratic majority but strong leadership to persuade. Political minorities vote, but majorities rule."
Krishnamoorthi said people engaged in the science of mental illness ought to work with law enforcement to make background checks as thorough as they can be.
Bullwinkel, a former journalist who went on to advocate for two national mental health organizations, said, "We need to be more aware of the signs and symptoms of people who may be in trouble."
Bullwinkel wants to set up a task force in the 8th District to address better gun laws.
"I've seen when you bring collective voices together, it can really bring about change," she said.
Krishnamoorthi said the resistance to simple measures like tightening the so-called gun show loophole comes from people who fear anything that would restrict firearm sales would diminish Second Amendment rights.
The loophole keeps private-party gun sellers free of the requirement store owners have to conduct thorough background checks of prospective buyers.
Noland said he supports not only closing the gun show loophole and universal background checks, but a ballistics registry to better identify firearms used in crimes and guns made with a biometric identification system so that they will fire only for their owners.
Noland said he's been pushing gun control a long time. He championed a gun ordinance in Elgin in 2000 that would have made gun distributors civilly liable for the sale of weapons used in crimes.
The city decided the proposal wouldn't hold up in court, not because of its basic premise but because it required a level of authority more appropriate for a state than a municipality.
The winner of the March 15 Democratic primary will face DuPage County Board member Pete DiCianni in the November general election. DiCianni, the former mayor Elmhurst, is the only candidate on the Republican ballot in the March 15 primary.
The 8th District is roughly centered in Schaumburg and includes parts of northwest Cook, northeast DuPage and northeast Kane counties.
Democratic congresswoman Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates is vacating the seat to run for the U.S. Senate.