Updated: June 18, 2013 7:28AM
As the father of two teenagers, I’m never far from the reality of gun violence. The recent deaths of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendelton and 15-year-old Cornelius German occurred just minutes from my own home and a few short blocks away from President Barack Obama’s house. No neighborhood and no family is immune.
In December, a federal court decided that Illinois’ ban on the concealed carry of a gun is unconstitutional. The court gave Illinois 180 days to change the law. While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, our responsibility is clear: We must draft a law that satisfies the court’s interpretation of the Constitution yet includes the strongest possible measures to protect innocent citizens from gun violence.
If the Legislature fails to act, Illinois will have failed to regulate those who wish to carry loaded guns in public. Anyone could walk down Michigan Avenue or ride the CTA with a loaded gun strapped to his or her waist. This Wild West scenario is not acceptable to me, or to most residents of Illinois, and I am working with legislators in both parties to find a better solution.
I have spoken with both victims of gun violence and Second Amendment advocates, and this week I will introduce the Gun Safety and Responsibility Act. This bill satisfies the court order, while meeting the critical need for reasonable gun safety laws in the communities most affected by violence.
In Chicago, where we experience the bulk of gun violence, this law would put in place additional layers of security before a person could receive a concealed-carry permit. Not only would the Illinois State Police have to approve the application, but the Chicago Police superintendent also would have to sign off on it.
This system would pose no threat to law-abiding citizens. People with criminal records or a history of mental illness still would be barred from owning firearms. People with licenses would be prohibited from carrying guns in sensitive areas such as schools, child-care centers, hospitals, sports arenas and establishments that serve alcohol. Private businesses and property owners could prohibit people from carrying guns on their property.
My bill also cracks down on illegal gun transfers and requires that a gun owner report a lost or stolen weapon as soon as he or she becomes aware of it.
As reported in the Sun-Times late last month, this solution has widespread appeal with the public. The Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll showed 73 percent of Illinois voters support this approach.
But the recent showdown in Washington over universal background checks has exposed the intransigence of extremist opponents of common-sense legislation. They stand in the way of any firearm regulation, no matter how reasonable. They count on an energized minority to thwart the will of the rest of us, but it won’t happen here.
The stakes are too high. For every Hadiya and Cornelius, there are dozens of other victims, none of whom deserved their fate. We may not see their faces on the evening news, but their deaths are just as tragic.
In the coming days and weeks, I urge every citizen in Chicago and across the state who is fed up with the killings and the violence to speak up, call your legislators, talk to your neighbors and join us in the fight to end gun violence.
We need to raise our voices and do what’s right to make all of our communities safer places to live.
Kwame Raoul is a Democratic state senator from Chicago.