Underwood, local students call for Senate action on gun reform
When Maggie Hirschauer sits in her fifth-grade classroom in Batavia's J.B. Nelson Elementary, most of the time she's thinking about math, science and English lessons. Then there are the other times. The times she thinks about fighting. Not against any schoolyard bully, but matching herself against a bad person with a gun.
If a shooter entered her school, her first option, according to the training she said she's received, is to run. Maybe even jump out of a window. The second is to hide. The third option -- the one she thinks about more than she'd like -- is to use her fists, scissors or whatever is nearby to fight the person with the gun.
"I feel angry that grown-ups are expecting kids like me to fight back instead of making sure bad people can't get guns," Maggie said.
She doesn't like the idea of arming her teachers either.
"It scares me," she said. "I don't think guns should be where kids learn. My question for all you grown-ups is, 'Why aren't you doing anything about our gun violence problems?'"
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood has the same question. That's why she invited Maggie and West Aurora High School senior Mary Horn to Washington, D.C., this week. Horn was one of the students on lockdown at the school during the mass shooting at the Henry Pratt facility in Aurora earlier this year.
The three were part of a larger Democratic push this week to get the Senate to vote on two gun-reform bills that already passed the House.
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 would prohibit firearm transfers between private parties unless a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer or importer first took possession of the firearm and conducted a background check. The prohibition would not apply in all situations, such as gifts between spouses or parents and children. The bill passed the House 240-190, including the support of eight Republicans.
The second bill is the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019. The legislation is designed to address situations like the 2015 mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In that event, the shooter bought a gun from a licensed dealer despite having faced drug charges. The sale came after the dealer did not receive a definitive response from the National Instant Criminal Background System within three business days.
The bill would give the background checking system up to 20 days to complete a review. The House passed the legislation with 228-198 vote. Three Republicans supported it.
That comparatively low GOP support has fueled a frigid reception in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said his chamber will take up only gun legislation that has the full support of President Donald Trump. Last month, Trump called for "meaningful background checks" but backed away from that statement a couple of weeks later, saying he thinks the country already has "very serious background checks."
With Democrats pushing forward with impeachment proceedings, multiple reports now indicate gun reform conversations between the Trump administration and the Senate have stopped. Sen. Dick Durbin even told Politico, "I'm afraid that that ship may have sailed."
Underwood, a Naperville Democrat, has not yet raised her anchor on gun reform.
"The Senate has acted in a cowardly way by not moving forward these pieces of legislation," she said in a phone interview. "And I am, quite candidly, a little dismayed that President Donald Trump has not really stepped forward and outlined for the American people what he is willing to support."
Underwood's 14th District includes parts of DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.