By Anna Lothson
The Oak Park Board of Health was tasked by village trustees with reviewing options for handgun regulation in the village after the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Oak Park's handgun ban. Meeting April 23, the health board reached preliminary recommendations that the village not pursue specific regulations such as a handgun registry or mandatory handgun training.
The board's review process will continue in the coming months and the village board will not receive final recommendations on the subject until late summer or into the fall. The health board's recommendations are advisory. The final decisions are left to the village trustees.
Seven draft proposals were discussed at the health board. These consisted of a local handgun registry; mandatory training requirements for handgun owners; mandatory requirements for handgun storage or use of trigger locks; mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns within 72 hours; licensing of gun dealers; limitations on location of gun dealers; and voluntary education campaigns and other initiatives.
Of the seven proposals on the table, the board indicated it was against all except two. Board members expressed support for a proposal regarding voluntary education campaigns and other initiatives. The only proposal the board did not indicate a position on was the mandatory reporting of lost or stolen handguns within 72 hours.
The draft report from the health board will now be reviewed over the next month by Simone Boutet, the acting village attorney.
The draft report stated that while most members of the health board "prefer to live in a community free from firearms, the OPBH recommends against most legislation that mandates registries, licensing and regulations within the jurisdiction of Oak Park."
A number of reasons were discussed as to why they recommended against implementing such proposals, but a majority were focused on a lack of evidence indicating that implementing the policies would have an impact on public safety, according to the draft report. Other reasons to recommend against adopting the five policies centered on the fact that other statewide laws prevent efforts such as a local handgun registry.
As for the proposal of mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns within 72 hours, the board suggested not recommending for or against the issue, but let the village board lobby state officials to pass a law on this matter so it would be dealt with in all communities.
Margaret Provost-Fyfe, Oak Park's public health director is the staff liaison on the health board. She said in an interview Thursday that each of the draft proposals will be looked at as a way for the health board to decide how the village could mitigate the issue.
"They are really concerned about violence as a public safety issue," she said, "and how [legislation] can impact violence in the community."
David Schweig, a 76-year-old Oak Park resident who supports gun ownership, and has long opposed the village's hadgun ban, recently spearheaded the group Oak Parkers for Saving Lives — which has around 20 members and said the group supports the health board's initial conclusions. He's in favor of the issue moving forward so it doesn't spend more of the village's time and money.
"The Board of Health did a bang-up job of analyzing each and every point," he said in a recent phone interview. "The group did a very thorough job."
Despite his optimistic views on the board's recommendations, he's concerned the village board won't move forward with the same thoughts. He worries the issue could be dragged out for years, which he thinks would have adverse effects on responsible residents.
"Why wouldn't they move ahead right now?" he asked. "The board of health couldn't be much clearer. … Who does a gun ordinance affect? [It affects] you and me; the people following the laws."
Overall, Provost-Fyfe said the board's findings and recommendations were based on more than two years of research that stems from evidence published in medical and health journals and studies.
Moving forward, she said the language of the draft proposals will be looked at and discussed by the board at a future meeting. The health board's recommendations will then be relayed to the village board once proper documents are prepared and a procedural vote is taken by the health board. The village board, however, may not see the issue on its agenda until sometime in the fall, she said.