Underwood, Oberweis spar over gun control, immigration

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood and her opponent for the 14th Congressional District seat, state Sen. Jim Oberweis, went head to head on police reform, abortion, gun control and other issues during a virtual forum over the weekend.

During the event hosted by several suburban League of Women Voters chapters, Underwood said she has been proud and inspired watching people in the 14th District embracing the cause of equality and justice and saying "Black Lives Matter."

Underwood, a Democrat from Naperville, co-sponsored the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, named for the 46-year-old Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May, which she said mandates common sense reforms.

"It requires police departments to collect data regarding use of force, bans the use of chokeholds and it requires that deadly force only be used as a last resort," Underwood said. "It gives our communities the tools that we need to foster a culture of accountability, transparency and justice to law enforcement."

Oberweis, a Republican from Sugar Grove, said he strongly supports the right to demonstrate or protest, but said that "there have to be limits on that."

"When it gets to rioting and looting and violence, that's absolutely wrong. That should not be allowed," Oberweis said. "No one should serve in Congress and say that it's OK to loot and riot."

Oberweis accused Underwood of failing to condemn rioting and looting during an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times' editorial board.

"Rioting, looting, destroying businesses, taking away jobs, these should never be allowed," he said.

Underwood said Oberweis was lying about this.

"I've stated over and over and over again that we should not seek to solve our problems through violence, and in fact, my record of protecting our community from violence of any kind is quite clear," she said.

Regarding gun control, Underwood said she supports both universal background checks to reduce gun violence, and the restoration of the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

"No child should fear for their life at school, no worker should fear a mass shooting at their job," she said. "Gun violence prevention is a public health issue, and it's the responsibility of Congress to respond with a data-driven, evidence-based policy, like the bipartisan background check bill."

Oberweis, who described himself as a "strong supporter of the Second Amendment," said he also backs universal background checks, but generally doesn't believe more laws are necessary. Instead, he said, better enforcement of current laws is needed.

"The best thing that we could do to protect our kids and adults would be to combine the five different databases that we have right now," Oberweis said. "Because the background check doesn't do any good if you're checking one system, and somebody doesn't show up on that system, but they're in one of the other systems."

Oberweis said a related issue is the need to provide more support to those in need of mental health treatment.

When asked about abortion, and Roe v. Wade in particular, Underwood said reproductive health is health care. She criticized Oberweis over statements she said he made supporting limited access to birth control and outlawing abortion in the case of rape.

Oberweis did not respond to these criticisms, nor did he directly address on his views on abortion. He answered a debate moderator's question by saying it's clear people deserve choices with their health care.

A single-payer health system, he said, is not the way to provide good health care.

"I support giving people the choice. I don't think that they should be required to purchase something in health care that is against their religion," Oberweis said. "But I do support transparency, I support more competition, and I support letting people make their own choices for themselves."

The candidates also sparred in immigration. Oberweis said he is a strong proponent of legal immigration but opposes illegal immigration, saying it's unfair to those who follow the system.

"Is building the wall the answer? Maybe it helps, but it's certainly not the only answer," he said, adding that he supports a path to citizenship for children who arrived in the U.S. illegally with their parents.

Underwood said she co-sponsored the American Dream and Promise Act, to provide a path to lawful permanent resident status to those young people, and is in favor of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act to streamline the temporary worker program.

"I've also consistently held (President Donald Trump's) administration accountable for their inhumane family separation policy, and I traveled to the border multiple times to provide oversight over this outrageous humanitarian crisis at the border," she said.

The 14th District includes parts of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Kendall counties.

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