Daily Herald opinion: Naperville sets example others should follow with weapons ban

This editorial is the consensus opinon of the Daily Herald Editorial Board

Warned by angry commenters last week that City Council members' votes regarding an ordinance banning the sale of certain high-powered rifles in Naperville would be “remembered” come election time, Councilman Paul Leong had a succinct and appropriate response.

“I want to assure everyone here,” he said, “that we are very aware of that. We're accountable, always.”

Then, all nine council members put their consciences on the line and voted. Eight favored the ban. One opposed.

We side with the eight. We respect all nine. We have no doubt that the early morning vote of Wednesday, Aug. 17, will not fade gently into the ether before the spring municipal elections. The truth is, as Leong indicated, that regardless of how the council voted, each member's decision would stir an angry response from passionate voters who feel differently.

Such is the lot of the generous citizens who step up to serve in little heralded and even littler-rewarded elected local offices. We have a lot of experience with such officials and have generally found them to be sincere and dedicated community servants. It can be amusing to think that voters might “punish” one by failing to re-elect him or her because of a single vote. It is more likely they are doing the person a favor.

So, we are slow to call the Naperville council's vote on the controversial ban “courageous” on its face. The members are courageous merely for taking on the job.

More important is the consideration that their vote was right.

Yes, holdout Paul Hinterlong had a point in fearing their action would generate a long period of expensive litigation with no assurance of victory. But, we're more swayed by Councilman Patrick Kelly's hope that, void of help from the state or federal governments, Naperville “can set an example for other municipalities and for our state and potentially the federal government.”

We desperately need such examples, and we fervently hope other governments are watching.

Gun advocates like to argue that weapons alone are not to blame for the outrageous carnage we are seeing across the country and, as in neighboring Highland Park and DeKalb, our own communities. And they are right. In an editorial just last week, we reflected on the many additional factors policy makers must address in this crisis.

Gun advocates also like to flaunt their superior knowledge of the high-powered weaponry at issue in such cases and suggest that lack of such experience makes others unqualified to express their outrage. On that point, they are only half right. We may not all have their depth of knowledge, but we have all seen the men, women and children made sitting ducks to horror in classrooms, theaters, nightclubs and holiday parades. We have a right and an obligation to demand action.

Finally, gun advocates also like to describe such actions as Naperville's as mere “political theater.” On that point, they could not be more wrong. Naperville's action may not prevent a horrific tragedy. A similar ban in place in Highland Park obviously could not protect that community. But it does send a message that needs to be heard and that needs to spread across the state and the country.

None of us should have to live under the constant threat that someone insisting on an unfettered right to own a weapon of human destruction will easily turn a pleasant group outing into a scene of bloodshed and terror.

No, the Naperville council's action was not futile or a mere show. It was recognition that a solution to this crisis must start somewhere, and an expression of willingness to be such a place. That may not in and of itself define courage, but certainly it is welcome, and it deserves to be commended.

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