Call for renewed focus on reducing gun violence
By Frank Abderholden firstname.lastname@example.org August 28, 2013 8:50PM
State Rep. Scott Drury, Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim and Congressman Brad Schneider meet with local police chiefs to discuss gun violence prevention at the North Chicago Police Department Wednesday, Aug. 28. | Submitted photo
Updated: October 28, 2013 2:39AM
U.S. Congressman Brad Schneider, State Rep. Scott Drury, eight local police chiefs and Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim met for a round-table discussion of ways to stop gun violence, and a national background check system topped everyone’s list.
In addition, the re-creation of a county-wide gang unit and funding for prevention and intervention programs to keep youths from joining gangs also made the list.
“This isn’t a party issue, it’s a people issue,” said Schneider at the beginning of the discussion. “We have a major problem, it’s a national problem, 30 people are killed with guns every day (in the United States),” he said.
“Forty percent of the guns purchased in the country there was no background check,” he said. This is what leads to straw purchases where someone buys guns and then sells them to street gang members or other criminals.
“We have Homeland Security vetting people riding on planes, why not a national background system available to the states,” said Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner. “It’s important to have that universal system. It’s confusing for people trying to be good citizens,” said Nerheim, also alluding to the patchwork of gun laws in Illinois where assault-type weapons are legal in Lake Forest, but not in Highland Park.
Schneider said that polls have shown that 74 percent of the public agrees with the universal background check, “but we can’t get it to the floor for a vote,” he said. “This is not a fight I am going to concede,” he said.
State Rep. Drury said when he helped four municipalities pass assault weapon bans he was surprised how quickly the National Rifle Association and other groups packed the city council meetings. He said he lost some friends in the ensuing battle between gun supporters and opponents. But he also learned that grass roots efforts can succeed and that’s what needs to be done.
“We need to dedicate more resources and we need to form coalitions. In 30 days four towns got bans,” he said, adding that if congress could vote anonymously we would have good gun laws. “You can get grassroots support, but it takes courage to stand up to the NRA,” he said.
Schneider supports expanding background checks, making trafficking a federal crime and limiting access to assault weapons. He is a cosponsor of the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act and the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, a bipartisan compromise that would expand background checks.
He also signed a letter asking for adequate funding for the Bryne Justice Assistance Grant (Bryne JAG) and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) programs. Chief Kushner said those latter two programs would help and so would more police training for officers. “We are ranked 44th in police training. South Carolina requires more police training than we do,” he said.
Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko, who also heads up the Major Crime Task Force, agreed that training is crucial. “You can’t have a gang unit without training,” he said, and a trained gang unit officer can speed up murder investigations by days. He also showed Schneider a picture of an SKS, an assault type weapon that can fire AK47 rounds. “These type of weapons are out there,” he said, “Straw purchase legislation is critical,” he said.
The chiefs agreed that street gun violence usually goes hand in hand with gangs and drug trade. “We have seen an increase in street gang violence in Lake County,” Nerheim said.
“The key is to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals and I support legislation that will help ensure that is accomplished, while balancing the rights of lawful gun owners,” he said.
Highwood Police Chief commented at the end that “We have the answers, it’s just the dollars.” Schneider said that is a challenge because of federal budget problems. “I will continue to fight because we need sensible gun laws,” he said.