Costa Howard questions Breen's votes on gun-control bills
Incumbent Republican Peter Breen and Democratic challenger Terra Costa Howard are sparring over his votes on gun-control measures in the bitter race for the 48th House District seat.
Breen, a two-term lawmaker from Lombard and the GOP's House floor leader, has supported a ban on bump stocks, an accessory that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire faster, and co-sponsored a firearms restraining order bill that authorizes courts to temporarily confiscate guns from people who appear to be a danger to themselves or others.
He also voted in favor of gun dealer licensing legislation that Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed in March.
His opponent, Costa Howard, an attorney who served two terms on the Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 school board, questions Breen's support of the bill that would have required gun shops to be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
During a meeting with the Daily Herald editorial board and a forum hosted by the Glen Ellyn chapter of the League of Women Voters, Costa Howard has suggested his vote was politically motivated in an election year and that Breen knew the bill wouldn't get the governor's signature.
"Even though it passed, the governor did veto that piece of legislation," Costa Howard said during the forum. "So that was a nice political vote during a time when you were running against a candidate who has a Moms Demand Action gun sense candidate distinction, which I have received since before the primary."
Both Breen and Costa Howard say they have been deemed "gun-sense" candidates by Moms Demand Action, the gun-control group founded after the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. Breen alone says he has secured endorsements from Arlington Heights-based Gun Violence Prevention PAC and the Giffords organization, founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who was seriously wounded in a mass shooting.
The National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund gave Breen an "A" grade in 2016 and an "F" ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
Costa Howard also is quick to point out that Breen opposed a measure to raise the minimum age to buying assault-style weapons from 18 to 21 in the wake of the February shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She support a new age requirement and universal criminal background checks on all gun sales.
"Our laws set a minimum age of 21 for buying alcohol," Costa Howard said in a follow-up statement. "Why would our laws require less maturity to buy an assault weapon than to buy a six-pack of beer?"
Breen defended his vote, accusing Democratic lawmakers of drafting a bill "not as a serious attempt to address gun violence, but as something to score political points."
"One of the key problems with that bill is that it was retroactive, and so in particular, they were going to force individuals who had legally purchased certain firearms to turn them in, and even the turn-in process was a little bit sketchy," Breen said. " ... It's hard to argue that's good policy, number one, but then number two, you've got a real issue with the court decisions that we're seeing on the Second Amendment. You have to be much more careful in the way that you regulate firearms based on the fact this is a constitutional protection."
Breen is trying to keep his seat in a district that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and covers all or parts of Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, Lombard and Downers Grove.
Have his views evolved on gun control? During his first four years in the House, Breen said lawmakers "did not have much in the way of gun legislation."
"I'm hearing from my gun owners 'defend my second amendment rights,' and I'm hearing from my moms 'license the gun dealers to stop the flow of illegal guns,'" Breen said. "And I sat there and said to myself those two positions are not inconsistent at all, and so I've tried to hew a course where your individual civil liberties can be respected, but we can regulate things like the flow of illegal guns. We can regulate things like getting our waiting periods standardized."
Breen said lawmakers should craft gun-control bills carefully vetted by law enforcement and constitutional experts, with an eye toward creating "national models." He called the firearms restraining order law the "best drafted of that type of law in the country."
An earlier version that came out of the Senate presented constitutional and process issues, among other flaws, Breen said.
"There was pressure even in the House, 'Oh just approve whatever they put across,' and fortunately, (state Rep.) Kathy Willis took a broader, long-term perspective," he said. "I was glad to be able to join her on that and kind of help put that together."