Congressional candidates Foster, Laib have opposite views on gun control and other issues

An online forum held this weekend revealed Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville and his Republican challenger for the 11th District seat, Joliet resident Rick Laib, have diametrically opposite views on gun control, the government's role in health care and other issues.

The nearly hourlong forum was staged Saturday night by the League of Women Voters of Naperville.

Foster, a former particle physicist, is seeking a sixth full term in Congress. He represented the 14th District from 2008 to 2010 but lost reelection. After moving to the neighboring 11th District, he won that seat in 2012 and has been its congressman since.

Foster said he supports universal background checks for would-be gun buyers. He also wants to restore the 1994 federal assault weapons ban that prohibited the manufacture of certain semi-automatic firearms and large-capacity ammunition magazines. It expired in 2004.

Foster cited Australia's strict firearms laws, which followed a 1996 mass shooting there, as legislation that has reduced gun violence. Some reports have indicated those laws have reduced mass shootings, gun suicides and armed crime.

“It's not true that these laws do no good,” Foster said.

Laib, a Will County sheriff's sergeant who once ran for the state House, identified his support of the Second Amendment as a key tenet of his campaign.

He is against restoring the assault weapons ban and opposes background checks for gun purchases, calling them “feel-good” proposals that represent “a direct attack on our constitutional rights.”

“These types of steps are designed to help reduce and maybe eliminate gun violence. But they don't,” he said. “They just put sanctions on law-abiding gun owners.”

The candidates also different significantly on health care.

Foster said he supports universal health care coverage but believes it should be accomplished in incremental steps, such as continuing the expansion of Medicaid, increasing the quality of Medicaid coverage and reducing the age of eligibility for Medicare. It's now 65; he didn't suggest a new threshold.

“This is something that can provide medical coverage to millions of Americans as they approached the age of eligibility for Medicare, where much of the severe medical problems actually start,” Foster said.

Laib said government needs to get out of the health care business.

Funding for even incremental increases in coverage would cost taxpayers, Laib, said, and they can't afford it “now more than ever.”

People should be able to craft their own health care benefits, Laib said, and employers can work with employees to develop programs.

“Let private enterprise take over,” he said.

Foster and Laib also had contrary opinions on climate change solutions. Foster endorses reversing President Donald Trump's 2017 directive and rejoining the international Paris Agreement, while Laib opposes such a move.

Foster supports abortion rights and their legal protections, while Laib opposes the right to have an abortion.

When asked about systemic racism in the U.S., Laib said “aggressively” fighting for religious liberty is the solution, but he didn't say how the two issues are related. Foster said he's proud of younger people who are peacefully protesting racism. Foster also praised the House for passing the Justice in Policing Act, a comprehensive proposal that would ban chokeholds, require body cameras, limit the transfer of military equipment to state and local police, and boost training programs, among other steps.

When it came to immigration, Laib said there's “substantial value and merit in protecting our culture.” He also voiced support for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In contrast, Foster said he supports a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for people living in the U.S. illegally, and he called the House not voting on the Senate's immigration reform bill in 2013 “one of the tragedies of history.”

The 11th District includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties.

A recording of the forum can be viewed on the league's Facebook page,

Bill Foster: Candidate profile

Rick Laib: Candidate profile

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