Editorial: Our opinion on gun control laws

Journal Editorial Board

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Promoting public safety remains a top priority in our society. From the tragedy at Columbine High School to the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, the question of how to protect citizens from those with ill intentions and the Second Amendment right to bear arms has been a constant balancing act.

Most recently, the U.S. Senate took up the concealed carry debate with a piece of legislation that would expand universal background checks on individuals purchasing firearms as well as ban some semi-automatic assault weapons. That legislation was defeated in a Republican filibuster.

In response to the legislation’s defeat, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords wrote a scathing New York Times op-ed piece, shaming the senators who turned their backs on the American people. As readers may recall, Giffords is a survivor of gun violence, having been shot at a Tuscon rally in 2011.

As members of The Journal Editorial Board, we are disappointed with the outcome of last week’s vote. As constituents of the United States and the state of Illinois, it is surprising that 46 senators voted down the bill, a very important step in passing protective measures.

Walking the halls at a public university, we see the need for protecting students, staff and faculty from a threat resulting from gun violence. It is a basic expectation that a learning environment should a be safe and habitable venue. It should not take something like Columbine or Newtown to occur in our own state to act in the greater public interest.

We acknowledge that gun ownership for the purposes of protection and hunting are legitimate. In many parts of the country, hunting is a sport and should not be penalized so long as the laws and regulations are being followed. Additionally, the Second Amendment right to bear arms should also not be trampled on.  In both instances, responsible gun owners who register their firearms properly should not be treated like criminals.

However, we agree there is a fine line between owning a pistol locked away for self-defense than owning a heavy ammunition assault rifle that can easily be manipulated. There is simply no reason for civilians to carry assault weapons freely, as witnessed in the case of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza.

This rings especially important in places where young people frequent. According to 2010 data from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 134 children and teens ages 0-19 were killed in an unintentional shooting. It is imperative we – as a nation – craft, pass and enforce legislation to take assault weapons out of the hands of civilians.

A federal court has given Illinois until June 9 to enact the concealed carry law. State lawmakers are in session for one more month and are in a great position to pass landmark legislation that protects the public from gun violence.

We urge the Illinois General Assembly to pass a bill that will require stricter laws requiring universal background checks and weapons purchases as well as harsher penalties for gun owners who don’t properly register their firearms. Additionally, we urge the GA to exempt schools if any concealed carry legislation like HB 997 does end up moving to a vote.

We remember the 500 innocent lives in Chicago that were lost in 2012 from gun violence. We remember the families in Newtown who dropped their children off, only to find later that some them would not return home. We pray for the families who lost loved ones in Colorado from Columbine, to Aurora, to Oak Creek and in the several hundred other tragedies – some that were covered by media and others that were not highlighted.

This is for them. Let’s not let their precious lives and legacies go in vain. Let’s pass commonsense gun safety laws now.