Gun violence in the crosshairs
Glenbrook South High School senior Mackenzie Ball told the group she wears a bulletproof backpack.
A senior from Maine West High School, Alana Khy, said she had wondered earlier that day just what she would do if there was an active shooter on campus.
Jin Valaperta, a member of Moms Demand Action, a group that seeks protections from gun violence, found it sad that kindergarten students need lockdown drills.
"We all live with a low, medium or high level of terror depending on what community you live in. That's not OK," Valaperta said.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Illinois Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz didn't think so, either.
They joined nearly 30 people Sept. 7 at the Glenview Public Library in a forum that aired fears and grievances and coalesced around a push to enhance gun safety measures.
The group included high school students, representatives from North Shore Unite and Moms Demand Action, and Jane Ballengee and Cathy Wilson with the League of Women Voters of Glenview-Glencoe.
"I've grown up in Glenview my entire life, and doing lockdowns every year, it just gets tiring," said Marlene Lee, a Glenbrook South senior who, with classmate Drew Duffy, co-founded the high school's Young Progressives Club early in their high school careers. Duffy, a Titans football player, was in practice that Wednesday and unable to attend the meeting at the library.
"It's tiring to continue to fight this fight," Lee said. "But, as a high schooler, I feel that it's needed, because if more high schoolers join in the fight, then maybe legislatures and senators will realize that the 'Lockdown Generation' doesn't want to be locked down, you know?
"It's not a good feeling, and I just hope that in the future the next generation won't have to deal with that. We shouldn't have to deal with it," Lee said.
By now, many are familiar with some of the statistics and trends heard at the Glenview Public Library. More than 40,000 deaths by gun violence in 2021. Increases in teen suicide. The 40% of United States households that have a gun.
Gone unmentioned were the 113 reports of shootings on college and high school grounds in the first half of 2022, according to the Everytown Support Fund website.
Of course, one of the year's most infamous and deadly shootings came in Highland Park on July 4.
"Are we ever going to have Fourth of July parades?" Schakowsky asked rhetorically from her spot among attendees seated in a circle in a library meeting room.
"We have to make it so, otherwise our culture is damaged," she said.
Some see a light, not necessarily at the end of the tunnel, but a light nonetheless.
"I feel that the wind is behind our back," Valaperta said of a willingness to address gun violence.
Schakowsky noted the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act signed by President Joe Biden this June, which she said includes language strengthening background checks for gun purchasers up to 18 years of age, legislates against straw buyers and funds violence prevention programs.
The U.S. House of Representatives in July also passed the Assault Weapons Ban of 2022, which prohibits the sale, manufacture, transfer or possession of a semi-automatic weapon or large-capacity ammunition feeding device, according to Congress.Gov.
The website said the bill was read by the Senate in August and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Schakowsky, who later took the names of people who wanted to remain in touch about the issue, credited this legislation to "outside pressure" and citizen activism.
"That was not something that would have happened a year or two ago," Caryn Fliegler said of the Assault Weapons Ban. She's a member of Moms Demand Action, as well as the clerk of Northfield Township.
Fliegler said Moms Demand Action has gained some 20,000 new volunteers in the past three months in Illinois alone. Mobilization efforts toward the midterm elections include the designation of candidates earning a "gun sense candidate" distinction, she said.
Gong-Gershowitz, a member of the Illinois House of Representatives Firearms Safety and Reform Working Group, hopes that more people turn out for the midterm elections than the 15% from District 17 who voted in the primary.
"The most powerful thing that we have in our tool box is to vote," she said.