Where Casten, Roskam disagree on gun control measures

  • Republican incumbent Peter Roskam, left, and Democratic challenger Sean Casten have differing views on gun control as they seek the 6th District congressional seat.

      Republican incumbent Peter Roskam, left, and Democratic challenger Sean Casten have differing views on gun control as they seek the 6th District congressional seat. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer July 2018

 
 
Updated 10/31/2018 5:47 AM

Some see the debate about gun control in America as a battle between safety and liberty.

Not Sean Casten.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Democrat running to unseat 6th District U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam says that's a false construct, and all it takes to make people safer from gun violence is decreased access to guns.

"The framing of the debate is wrong," Casten said. "We do not have a safety versus liberty situation; we have too many guns, which makes us unsafe, and we have plenty of liberty."

Roskam, however, says the need to consider both safety and liberty under the Second Amendment is real and must be incorporated into national gun policies.

"It is a balance. Under our constitution, Americans have a constitutional right to firearms," Roskam said. "It's not an absolute right; there's reasonable limitations. Most people in the 6th District recognize that."

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In the 6th District, which stretches from Naperville to Tower Lakes and includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties, gun control is being discussed by school officials because a proposal set to appear during the Illinois Association of School Boards' conference next month is broaching the issue of arming teachers.

And across the nation, gun control is rising to the forefront again after the shooting deaths of 11 people Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Some school boards within the 6th District, including Naperville Unit District 203, are beginning to voice opposition to the idea of granting districts statewide the ability to arm teachers and administrators. As far as congressional representation, both Roskam and Casten oppose the idea of arming teachers, saying it's not the right approach to protect children in the classroom.

But aside from that point of unity, Roskam and Casten have divergent views on appropriate controls and gun safety measures.

Roskam, 56, of Wheaton, said he supports universal background checks for the transfer of any kind of firearm. And he said he supports a ban on bump stocks, a policy which President Donald Trump said early this month is nearing completion.

A bump stock is a firearm accessory that speeds the shooting ability of semi-automatic weapons, effectively allowing them to function like machine guns. Banning them has gained traction during the past year after the gunman behind the Las Vegas concert shooting in October 2017 used bump stocks while killing 58 people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There's just no place for those at all," Roskam said.

Roskam also said he supports improvements to a national database that lists records verifying why certain people are disqualified from owning guns. He supports implementation of a set of policies called "red flag laws" that he says would allow law enforcement and family members to gain a judge's permission to take away someone's guns if he or she is exhibiting signs of potential violence.

"Red flag laws are laws that speak to the foreshadowing that we see many times in some of these cases, where upon reflection, it's obvious what was likely to happen," Roskam said about mass shootings that later reveal warning signs.

"I think those things speak directly to the type of concern that is top of mind for most parents," Roskam said. "They want to make sure their schoolchildren are safe."

Casten, 46, of Downers Grove, said gun policies should focus on preventing "all avoidable gun crimes."

He said some ways to do that include preventing people with a history of domestic violence from accessing or possessing guns, and regulating guns more like cars, so the person who is the licensed and registered owner of the gun is legally liable for any crimes committed with it.

Policies like this, Casten says, would give people second thoughts about buying a weapon in a state with lax laws, then reselling it to someone who couldn't otherwise qualify as a buyer.

Only in the case of people having suicidal thoughts does Casten say it's appropriate to bring mental health into the gun control equation.

Casten said not all people with mental health diagnoses should be prevented from owning guns; a policy like that, he said, could raise Second Amendment concerns. But he said the nation has a responsibility to protect people who are having suicidal thoughts by preventing their access to deadly weapons.

"We owe it to the society," he said.

The battle between these candidates concludes with the Nov. 6 election. The race, labeled by some pollsters as a tossup and by others as leaning Democratic, could help determine whether the majority in the U.S. House stays with the Republicans or shifts to the Democrats.

If Roskam wins, he claims a seventh term since first winning election in 2006.

If Casten wins, the political newcomer will gain his first elected position.

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