On Dec. 4, seven members of the ad hoc Gun Rights and Responsibilities Committee (GRRC), identifying themselves as the Gun Responsibilities (as opposed to the Gun Rights) side of that committee, published a position statement in the Viewpoints section of Wednesday Journal, the core of which contained a small number of significant recommendations for reducing gun violence in this country. I am one of those seven people.
It was our goal a year earlier to produce a set of recommendations from the entire GRRC, including the gun-rights advocates. We had hoped such a joint effort might produce many of the same recommendations as our Dec. 4 Viewpoints piece. It seemed early on that we would be able to move forward based upon our collective desire to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the dangerously mentally ill, and minors.
Unfortunately, we never progressed as a group beyond that point. The Gun Responsibilities side felt the system was broken and improvements were necessary. The Gun Rights side seemed content with the system as it existed, stating that the answer to the problem rested with law enforcement officials more aggressively enforcing existing laws. When it became apparent that the GRRC was stuck in gridlock, not unlike that being experienced in Springfield and Washington, the Gun Responsibilities side decided not to let the hard work of the last year go to waste and produced a short and simple set of proposed changes to the law that would protect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners and would reduce the ability of criminals, the dangerously mentally ill and minors to obtain guns.
The Gun Responsibilities side proposed:
1) a nationwide, real time, background check on all sales and transfers of guns, conducted by and through federally licensed gun dealers who are obligated to keep records of all such transfers — a real-time computer record check for criminal history and for a history of serious mental illness, that must be conducted with minimal inconvenience to legal gun owners.
2) Limit the number of gun purchases per authorized person per month, to one gun per person per month making it more difficult for straw purchasers to supply the needs of criminals. This change must also be made on a national level.
3) Limit the production, sale, and possession of ammunition magazines to no more than 10 rounds per magazine.
(The gun-rights side steadfastly refused to join us in making any of these first three recommendations.)
4) Require law-abiding citizens to do more to store and secure their weapons at home. (This is the one recommendation that could be effectively enacted at the local level.)
5) Require comprehensive in-depth gun safety training for all who own guns. (This recommendation could likely be effectively enacted into law at no less than the state level.)
The gun-rights side agreed in principle to recommendations 4 and 5, but never signed off on the written recommendations for same that had been presented to them. The Gun Responsibilities side intended that recommendations 1, 2 and 4 be enacted to address the almost daily gun violence occurring on the streets of our cities. They intended that recommendations 1 and 3 be enacted to address the all-too-frequent mass shootings which are taking place randomly in our society, like tragedy that took place in Sandy Hook a year ago. We have developed logical and consistent next-level details for each of these recommendations, but this is the sum total of the recommendations we made on Dec. 4. As we said then, these recommendations are not likely to completely resolve the gun violence issues they are addressing, but we sincerely believe that can have a substantial impact on reducing gun violence in our country.
John Erickson is a member of the Gun Rights side of the GRRC. On Dec. 4, he responded to the Gun Responsibilities side’s position statement, implying that he was speaking for the Gun Rights side and also implying that he didn’t sign off on the statement because he didn’t know about it. He had, in fact, failed to sign off on the substance of each of the recommendations made in the statement on multiple occasions. If he now wishes to add his signature to ours, he is certainly free to do so. We would welcome it.
In spite of the numerous references contained in our Dec. 4 recommendations that no action should be taken that would diminish or impair the Second Amendment rights of legitimate gun owners to own or possess guns, Mr. Erickson still insists in his response that one of his primary objections is that the Gun Responsibilities side does not want others to possess or use guns in self-defense.
It doesn’t make sense to say your “sticking point” with respect to a position statement that repeatedly reaffirms Second Amendment rights of legitimate gun owners, especially for self defense, is that the people who drafted the statement do “not want others to possess or use guns in self-defense.” All I can say is that our position statement was published in Wednesday Journal on Dec. 4 and he should reread it.
In the not-too-distant future, we are going to take these recommendations, either as written or amended, to the president and board of trustees for action. We will ask them to do those limited things that they can do locally, and we will ask them to engage our state and federal legislators to do what must be done to carry out these recommendations at the state and federal level.
For those who are feeling complacent about the issue or are wondering what gun violence has to do with our daily lives, I can only say that the street violence is only minutes away by car and that random acts of violence have been occurring both near and far, do not know boundaries, and can occur anywhere. There is much that can be done to stem gun violence. The only real obstacle is our willingness or unwillingness to actively engage on the topic.
Step up, Oak Park. Let’s get a broad public discussion going on the gun violence that in reality affects everyone.
Ray Heise is the former Oak Park village attorney.