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Freshman Rep. Duckworth hopes to be ‘calm voice’ on gun issues

Tammy Duckworth newly-elected U.S. Representative for Illinois's 8th congressional district is interviewed her Schaumburg offices Wednesday January 9 2013. |

Tammy Duckworth, the newly-elected U.S. Representative for Illinois's 8th congressional district, is interviewed in her Schaumburg offices on Wednesday, January 9, 2013. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 11, 2013 7:36AM

With a military background and coming from a family of marksmen, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth has plenty of experience with firearms.

“My husband and I certainly enjoy target practice,” she said. “I’m a very good shot.”

Still, Duckworth plans on being a “calm voice” in her role in the gun rights debate that’s raging in Congress.

In an interview from her new Schaumburg congressional office on Wednesday, the Hoffman Estates Democrat talked about the big issues facing Congress and set the agenda for her first term. It includes setting up health care workshops for seniors, slashing waste on a government oversight panel and ensuring the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway extension happens without any kinks.

Duckworth laid out some of her target issues in the midst of her first full week on the job. Duckworth, 44, was elected in November after a contentious campaign against incumbent Tea Party Republican Joe Walsh. Duckworth ultimately won decisively.

Sitting in the new office with few chairs and bare walls and still-boxed up computers and phones, Duckworth said she knows what tops her list.

“I think what I am going to do first and foremost is to support our local communities and make sure that the funding for Elgin-O’Hare does get carried through and a lot of infrastructure projects stay on schedule,” she said.

The plan is to extend the Elgin-O’Hare East so that it connects with I-90 and I-294.

Duckworth said there’s concern that local grant money will have to go toward the extension, and other construction will be put at risk. Duckworth said she’s working to make sure the massive project “doesn’t suck away from some of the other initiatives that need to continue to happen.”

This week, Duckworth announced one of the committees on which she will serve is the Government Oversight and Reform Committee. There she said she plans to carefully look at waste in federal spending. “I think the estimate is that DOD (Department of Defense) wastes something like $9 million a day in unsupervised procurement,” she said. She’ll be reviewing items as specific as vending machine contracts. “It’s less sexy but it’s the kind of detailed evaluation that I want to look at,” she said.

Duckworth said she plans to release a schedule of workshops to walk seniors in her district through how the Affordable Health Care Act will affect them.

“Some of the things we try to do is to show ... here’s where you are now, this is where you will be under Obamacare so people have a better understanding,” she said. “I think access to accurate information is critical. I just found that when I talk to people there is so much misinformation out there and the scare tactics and the fear that people deserve to know what’s really going to happen so they can plan.”

On the gun issue, Duckworth said there’s no doubt it’s of white-hot importance right now in Washington. “I think we did reach somewhat of a watershed moment,” she said, refering to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Duckworth, who has a FOID card but does not have a weapon, said she supports a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“I come from a family of marksmen. … This is where I hope to be a calm voice on the issue. You’re not going to see me on all the Sunday talk-shows pushing for something,” Duckworth said. “But I’m going to be that calm voice and say, look, if you are a hunter and you need 30 rounds to hunt, you have a really bad shot. My husband and I certainly enjoy target practice, I’m a very good shot.”

A wounded Iraqi War veteran, Duckworth said she’ll continue her visits to Walter Reed as a peer, essentially a former patient trained to talk to those in similar situations.

“Mostly it’s listening to their fears,” Duckworth said. “Mostly it’s walking in on the artificial legs and they realize, ‘[Duckworth’s] amputations are so much worse than mine are going to be, so if she can do it, I can too.’”

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