The Supreme Court decisions to which Dave Schweig refers in his essay are Heller and MacDonald. Oak Park was a party to the MacDonald Case, along with the city of Chicago. Anyone can read these decisions and anyone who does will quickly conclude that they not only recognize an individual Second Amendment constitutional right, but also authorize government to regulate the exercise of this right when it is in the interest of the public to do so.
Mr. Schweig states that he is “strongly in support of the Supreme Court rulings as to your rights to self-protection.” He fails to mention the equivalent responsibility of government to regulate these rights. He can’t have it both ways. With rights, come responsibilities. We all have a right of free speech, but that right does not permit us to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater.
I too, like Mr. Schweig, was a member of the Gun Rights and Responsibilities Committee. Approximately half the people on the committee favored common-sense gun regulations as a step toward preventing senseless, and all too common, tragedies like Sandy Hook Elementary (December of 2012) and the violence taking place every day on the streets of Chicago. The other half of the committee opposed any further regulation of guns and seemed to support the NRA’s proposed solution to these problems, which is more guns in the hands of the “good guys” to stop the “bad guys” with guns.
The actions proposed by the gun regulation people on the committee were limited in number and were focused on attacking these problems. They included eliminating the huge loopholes that now exist in background check laws, which include gun show and Internet sales and private sales and transfers of ownership. Other changes that we proposed included prohibiting the manufacture, sale and possession of ammunition clips that are capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition and limiting the acquisition of guns by individuals to one gun per month.
If the gaping loopholes are not closed, the existing laws requiring background checks cannot be effective. With respect to the benefit of limiting ammunition clips to those that cannot hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, the parents of the murdered Sandy Hook children said it best: The seconds it takes to change ammunition clips can be the difference between life and death for potential victims. Those few seconds permitted a whole class of Sandy Hook kids to escape. Finally, limiting the acquisition of guns by an individual to one per month effectively prevents a straw-purchaser from legally purchasing large numbers of guns at gun shows and reselling them to street gangs. If the straw purchaser can’t get them in the first place, he won’t be able to sell them to the street gangs.
The pro-gun people on the committee, including Mr. Schweig, rejected each and every one of these proposals while remaining in lockstep with the NRA in their steadfast rejection of even the most common-sense proposals, and thus far the NRA has been a successful roadblock to change.
In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, 85% of the American people and 60% of the NRA membership favored universal background checks (i.e. a single, nationwide system, no exceptions) and limiting ammunition clip size. When legislation to accomplish these things was voted on in the U.S. Senate, the measure fell short by three votes, 60 votes being required to override a filibuster. Fifty-seven senators voted in favor of the legislation. Without the filibuster, it would have passed.
The NRA has a huge war chest and its contributions to the election campaigns of so many in Congress have thus far been able influence Congress enough to overcome the will of the majority. Advisory referendums, like the one on universal background checks on the Nov. 4 ballot in Oak Park, are one way that the people of this village can fight back against big money influence of the NRA. Please send a message to your representatives in Congress by voting “Yes” to universal background checks on Nov. 4.
Ray Heise is the recently retired Oak Park village attorney.