Senseless violence requires sensible legislation

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By State Senator Don Harmon

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When facing a problem, do something. If that doesn't work, do something else.

That pithy advice is credited to President Franklin Roosevelt. Last week in Springfield, we finally did something to help stop kids from dying in our streets by passing bipartisan state-level gun dealer licensing legislation.

Despite cries to the contrary from gun advocates, this proposal could bring meaningful change to the neighborhoods I represent by protecting families from the devastating scourge of senseless gun violence.

Fourteen-year-old children are shooting each other because guns end up too easily in the wrong hands. Senate Bill 1657 will give police new tools to hold corrupt or reckless gun dealers accountable and curb the flow of illegal guns to our streets. It is a meaningful step to protect our children and neighborhoods.

This measure is long overdue for Illinois.

I first introduced similar legislation in 2003 and attempted to pass it in every General Assembly since. No debate has frustrated me more. In those years, thousands of lives were lost, entire communities were destabilized, and Chicago gained widespread attention — all because of gun violence and the powerful gun lobby.

Locally, we gathered at dozens of community meetings and anti-violence rallies on the West Side. Last month, we discussed the problem at the historic Austin Town Hall, a block from the brazen daylight shooting that left one dead and five injured just days before.

At every gathering, our anger and frustration has grown, as has the desperate cry for action from grieving families and communities.

The Illinois Senate finally took a step forward on a common-sense solution. Gun dealers are the most critical link between manufacturers and the public. A recent study revealed that 40 percent of guns used in crimes in Chicago were sold by Illinois gun dealers.

Senate Bill 1657 encourages responsible business practices — including background checks, employee training and state inspection authority of dealer locations — to curb illegal transfers of guns.

Illinois would not be alone in requiring state-level licensing; 27 other states have enacted similar rules.

This is a difficult issue for many. Other corners of Illinois have different cultural mores when it comes to gun ownership and rights. Law-abiding gun owners deserve a place at the table, too. I appreciate my downstate colleagues who chose to see things from our point of view, including the lone Senate Republican brave enough to cross the aisle to get this done.

As this debate moves to the House, we will need to find more support. We will not benefit from the cooperation of the National Rifle Association, which responded to the Senate's action by instructing members to "neutralize Harmon" — an alarming but not surprising reaction.

I urge you, those who are directly affected by gun violence and who have seen the devastating effects of it, to do something to ensure this legislation is successful in the House. Call and write Illinois' state representatives to voice your support. Get involved with an anti-gun violence advocacy group.

We owe it to our children and to those we've lost to gun violence to do something.

State Senator Don Harmon represents the 39th District, which includes Oak Park, where he is a resident.

Reader Comments

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Barbara Joan  

Posted: May 9th, 2017 8:44 AM

Zero tolerance for law breakers , murder and mayhem--you do the crime, you do the time or are deported if not a legal resident or citizen.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: May 9th, 2017 7:56 AM

@ Dwyer - I simply suggested that we look at "Operation Exile" as a proven way to reduce gun violence. I also mentioned that AG Holder stated that he was dropping the program because it was a "cookie cutter" plan that impacted a disproportionate number of blacks. You, Bill Dwyer, obviously have problems with this suggestion because it was suggested by idiots who are "simple minded." The racist comment was Holders, not mine. Mr Dwyer seems to have a lovely little double handled pot under his bed where he stores his irrefutable facts and information, which he, thankfully, refuses to show us. Your last post seems a bit muddled, I asked you to defend your claims about our mental competence and you come back with a simply confused statement that just reinforces our conviction that you are "an empty wagon, that makes a lot of noise"

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: May 8th, 2017 5:27 PM

Where are the facts you brag of, Ray? You can't debate people like you who don't accept facts.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: May 8th, 2017 3:00 PM

@ Franz - To the progressive liberal, doing something is enough. Sort of like participation trophies, If you do something it isn't important whether it works or not just throw some more money at it and keep your fingers crossed.

Franz Hayek  

Posted: May 8th, 2017 1:50 PM

How unbelievably fantastic is Harmon's quote attributed to FDR... "When facing a problem, do something. If that doesn't work, do something else" With this much wisdom at Harmon's fingertips as well as those of his esteemed party, why hasn't more been done? Harmon and Co..have done little except push our state to the brink of disaster. They have been marching to the same liberal beat, but yet the outcomes are still terrible. Perhaps he could follow FDR's sage advice and try something new. He and his party continue to push for more of the same - insanity.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: May 8th, 2017 10:21 AM

@ Dwyer - Long on insults, devoid of factual contribution! So that is the debating skills you brag about?

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: May 7th, 2017 8:30 AM

This is the idiocy of the far right perception of this world. A two year prison sentence is somehow seen as "ignoring" gun trafficking. The prosecution of such crimes involves a " a tangled web," when the fact is that the judicial system does not ignore the crime- even if you, as I do, think the sentencing is to light. And it's not a tangled web- it a formal, long established process- law enforcement, prosecution, the courts. As for Simpson's simple minded assessment of Eric Holder's concerns, I don't have enough space here to refute his uninformed drivel, except to say that the far right always seems to be so much more concerned with the black criminals illegally retailing the guns, and not nearly as concerned with the white criminals that supply them with the weapons in the first place. You all add nothing to this debate except fearful hot air.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: May 7th, 2017 8:15 AM

Here is a positive approach! From Wikipedia - - "Project Exile is a federal program started in Richmond, Virginia in 1997. Project Exile shifted the prosecution of illegal technical gun possession offenses to federal court, where they carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison under the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, rather than in state court. Note that federal law (18 U.S.C. sec. 922 & 924) provides for a penalty of ten years in federal prison for being a "prohibited person", i.e., a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, as well as for falsifying information in order to obtain one, or furnishing a gun to a convicted felon. The program has since been copied by several other cities, sometimes under other names. In Atlanta, for example, the program was known as FACE 5 (Firearms in Atlanta Can Equal 5 years in federal prison). While many have discontinued or modified their programs, Project Exile is still in effect in Rochester, NY.[1]" The elimination of this effective program happened because AG Eric Holder claimed it was "Racist" since the majority of thugs removed from the street were black.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: May 6th, 2017 8:00 PM

Jenna you are 100% correct. Gun crimes and the prosecution of such crimes involves a tangled web: police, prosecutors and finally the courts. The courts play no part in investigating crimes but play a major part in ultimate outcomes. To deny such a reality is sheer lunacy. Judges - rightly or wrongly - make critical life and death determinations as to whether a potentially dangerous predator will or will not be released upon the community prior to trial. Read the following for a graphic illustration:

Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: May 6th, 2017 7:13 PM

Pardon, here is the link to the story.,amp.html

Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: May 6th, 2017 6:24 PM

Mr Dwyer, I disagree. A story I filled with incredulousness reported on a man that regularly brought guns in a duffle bag to a porch on Austin. He was busted with 40 for sale. How many babies' blood does that man have in his hands? The cause was solid, the arrest and trial quick. The court gave him 2 years. 24 Months! We have sensible gun laws. We don't have sensible consequences for violating those laws. Those that seed the killing field are not punished, they are given 'restorative justice'. And it starts early in towns like these.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: May 6th, 2017 5:41 PM

Our court system doesn't ignore anything regarding the the shadow market for fire arms- isn't tasked with investigating and building cases against illegal gun sales- the ATF and other federal and state L.E. agencies are.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: May 6th, 2017 12:19 PM

@ Bill Kopper - We had a young black man from Maywood tell us that his cousin would travel to the port in Mobile and load his trunk up with cheap foreign handguns and bring them to the Chicago area. The whole process was illegal and no background checks FBI checks or FFL dealers were involved. The exception to that is guns that were stolen from legitimate owners. The problem of gun violence rests with a few people who do not care about laws, ordinances or regulations. Buyers, sellers and transporters are breaking federal law and could be tried and incarcerated.This shadow gun market is not so easy to control and often ignored by our court system

Bill Kopper from Oak Park  

Posted: May 5th, 2017 4:35 PM

Since the guns were purchased in Illinois, the purchases were made by FOID card carriers, hence the folks who transferred the guns to the 14 year old are easily identifiable. What has the Senate done to prosecute straw buyers and ensure current laws are enforced?

Barbara Joan  

Posted: May 4th, 2017 9:58 AM

A Fathers love matters! And when a positive male role model is missing from a child's life it has a profound effect on their development.The Great Society was the new plantation and has accomplished what it set out to do--destroy the family of all people-, and the black community has suffered the most by it's design. If anyone speaks such truth they are called a racist and hater--and that was by design to so no solution will ever present. Oppressives support this mentality by shutting down the truth-free speech. Marxists are clever and have brainwashed many generations to abide by their principles--" resist" such shackles!

Ray Simpson  

Posted: May 4th, 2017 8:20 AM

@ Litha - You just asked the right question! Key to the problem is why not how. We all know that cheap illegal guns, on the street is the "how" more important is "why" Killing one another is the result of a failed education system, a passive judicial system, a declining church influence and a welfare system that perpetuates political dependence. The presence of a father in the home causes severe financial losses. We have failed to teach our youth that there is another way to settle arguments beside killing one another. Blaming guns is EASY! Blaming society requires some serious soul searching and accepting our own share of the blame.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 7:07 PM

Oh GREAT! another law to be ignored by our court system. So a bad guy goes into court with his mama who sheds tears and asks the judge to ignore the binder full of rap sheets for her kid, the judge accommodates her to clear his docket. So another thug is back on the street (sans gun I hope) and according to DOJ statistics, will get another gun (Illegally) and stick up a poor shop owner within 28 days. It is a good bet that the new firearm has never been processed through a Federal Firearms License dealer without there being a theft in its history. So the state wants to require a state license from a merchant who already has a federal license that cost him thousands of dollars and a year's wait. Who will be responsible for the expense of the background check and maintenance for this business? I am a gun rights advocate who would never support gun violence felonies. I support "Operation Exile" which mandates that all felonies were a firearm is involved be tried in federal courts where there are no plea bargains and mandatory sentences be served in federal prisons. This would require cooperation between state and federal authorities. In Richmond VA it reduced gun violence by 70% in a very short period of time.

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