Thinking back several weeks to the latest village discussion on handguns in Oak Park, what comes to mind is not my opinion about guns but rather the rude treatment that two important village institutions received by open-use handgun advocates.

The first institution unfairly maligned was the Oak Park Police Department. A letter writer implied that citizens needed guns because the police force is only charged with public order, not with citizen safety. This is a horrible insult to our police department. Just check out the Oak Park police website and you will see the long list of services that our police officers provide to anyone within the boundaries of the village of Oak Park, every day. Each and every officer is dedicated to maintaining the safety and security of everyone in the village and being constantly ready to do whatever it takes to maintain our village.

In my personal and professional life as a social worker, I have seen Chief Rick Tanksley, Deputy Chief Tony Ambrose, Community Policing Sergeant Dave Jacobson, and Community Policing Officer Mark Scott greatly extend themselves to help community residents, disabled citizens, and disgruntled neighbors/drivers to resolve quality of life issues while ensuring safety, fairness, equity, and yes, justice. Our police are an important part of what makes Oak Park a wonderful place to live, visit, and work.

The second unfairly maligned institution was the Oak Park Board of Health. As part of its commitment to work with the Health Department to improve the overall health of our community, this citizens commission began to research what needed to be in place to maintain the health and safety of our village long before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Oak Park handgun ban. Combining the resources of public health and safety professionals, gun owners, and concerned citizens, the commission carefully researched how other communities had adapted to a change from a handgun ban to handguns being legal, considered the unique conditions in our village and what would be impinged by handguns being legal, and came up with a carefully researched and written report, which included a set of recommendations that would protect both the public health and even the most liberal interpretation of the “right to keep and bear arms” in the Second Amendment.

In appreciation of the expertise the health board has built up in this 4½-year process, the village board asked them to hold a public meeting to take testimony that would give the village board further public input on this issue.

The hearing fairly received testimony and public opinion following the standard used for all testimony given before village bodies, limiting testimony to three minutes. In fact, when there are many people wishing to comment, village bodies may limit testimony on each side of the issue to three individuals for each side. But the Board of Health allowed any person who requested to speak and have their three minutes.

In return for this courtesy, the Board of Health was barraged by insults from various people, both inside the village and out, representing themselves and statewide and national organizations demanding an end to all restrictions on gun ownership and usage inside the village. One state-based pro-gun speaker went so far as to insult the competence, fairness, objectivity, and even the standing of the Board of Health to carry out its responsibility under its enabling ordinances.

Like good citizen volunteers/officials, the board took the insults with maturity and grace. But why should citizens serving their community have to take this?

As I have noted, we are fortunate to have in Oak Park many organizations and institutions who contribute to our quality of life. Shouldn’t they be given appreciation and respect?

Frank Vozak is an Oak Park resident.

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