Should gun owners help schools fund trauma response? Bill would add 1% tax to ammo sales
Should gun owners be on the hook to pay for training, counseling and other programs that help schools prepare for and deal with traumatic events like on-campus shootings?
That's the idea behind new legislation in Springfield that would impose an additional 1% tax on all ammunition sales and direct the revenue to a trauma response fund for schools.
Among the co-sponsors of House Bill 238 is freshman state Rep. Maura Hirschauer, a Democrat from Batavia.
A former teacher and member of the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, Hirschauer said seeing two more mass shootings in recent days -- March 16 near Atlanta and Monday in Boulder, Colorado -- further illustrates that gun violence is a public health crisis.
"So when I saw Rep. (Sonya) Harper's bill, it spoke to me," she told us Thursday. "The creation of a trauma response fund I think is really necessary for our schools to make sure that we're protecting students and that we're prepared for traumatic events, which, unfortunately, seem to be happening more and more often these days."
Why should an ammunition tax pay for it?
"I think it goes to the heart of gun violence, and that is the guns themselves," Hirschauer said. "I think we're trying to find some creative new ways to raise the funds we need for the programs we think are important."
Opponents lining up
As you would expect for any firearms-related legislation, HB238 has its share of opponents. They include a pair of statewide gun owners rights organizations.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said the measure unfairly singles out gun owners to fund programs that should be everyone's responsibility.
"This is something that should come out of the state's general fund because it addresses a problem for everybody, not just a person who buys shotgun shells," Pearson told us.
John Boch, executive director of Savoy-based Guns Save Life, said the organization will fight the proposal. Placing a special tax on ammunition is different from taxes that target specific items like cigarettes or hotel stays, he said.
"There's not a constitutional right to smoke a pack of cigarettes or spend a night in a hotel, but there is a right to keep and bear arms," he said.
Boch's organization is suing Cook County over a similar tax. Under the county's 2013 ordinance, a $25 fee is added onto any firearm purchase, and ammunition sales are taxed at 1% or 5%, depending on the type.
Both a Cook County judge and state appeals court have sided with the county, but Boch hopes to fare better before the Illinois Supreme Court, which is expected to hear arguments next month and rule this summer.
In the meantime, HB238 is for now at the committee level in the House. Hirschauer said it's not clear when or if it will get a floor vote in the General Assembly's current session.
Caught bad guys with integrity
The story goes like this: Rebellious teenager Dave Hamm goes to a movie with a friend one night. Afterward, they go to a closed used-car lot to look at a car Hamm wants to buy. The friend starts stealing wheel covers. The teens are arrested and as Hamm sits in the Wheaton Police Department jail, a friendly officer strikes up a conversation.
And that's how Hamm began a 52-year career in law enforcement.
Hamm died last Sunday at age 84.
From his first job as a DuPage County sheriff's deputy to his last, as an investigator for the DuPage County state's attorney's office, Hamm relished going after bad guys -- and doing it with integrity, in an era where that could be hard to find.
In his 64-page memoir, Hamm recalled how his first job as deputy was as a patronage hire. His first night on patrol, he learned how tow-truck drivers were paying deputies $10 for each vehicle they towed from a crash, and how local restaurants didn't charge officers for their meals.
When he joined the Wheaton force, he reported a partner who broke into an auto repair shop and stole items. As a member of the new Illinois Bureau of Investigation in the 1970s, he led an investigation that uncovered a suburban police officer selling dope -- while on duty and in uniform.
In his third stint with the DuPage County sheriff, Hamm worked as a courtroom deputy, providing security during the third trial of Rolando Cruz. Cruz was charged with raping and murdering 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville in 1985, but he was ultimately exonerated.
After the acquittal, the DuPage state's attorney's hired Hamm to investigate claims by another man, Brian Dugan, that he had killed Jeanine. While authorities had long known of the claim, Dugan would not make a full confession unless it was guaranteed that he would not receive the death penalty.
But Hamm's investigation uncovered evidence proving Dugan's guilt. Dugan ended up pleading guilty in 2009 and Hamm retired, for the last time, a year later.
This is getting to be a trend.
A few weeks after a pair of Barrington Hills police officers won praise for helping to deliver a baby on the side of a village road, an Illinois State Police trooper repeated the feat Wednesday morning along I-55 in Darien.
State police said Trooper Lanny Finn, who works out of ISP District 2 in Elgin, responded to a medical emergency at about 7:40 a.m. in the southbound lanes of I-55 near Cass Avenue.
Finn arrived to find a mother who had just given birth, state police said. He quickly wrapped the baby in a blanket to keep the child warm, and mom and baby were taken to the hospital.
"I am happy to hear the baby and mother are doing well," Finn said.
Finn is a 17-year state police veteran and a first responder instructor with the ISP. In 2017, he retired as a major in the U.S. Army National Guard after serving 20 years.
State police did not provide any additional information on the mother and baby out of respect for their privacy.
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