If you’re looking for a good reason to vote in the Nov. 4 election, consider making a statement in favor of saner firearm regulation nationwide.
A few of us have formed a group called the Gun Responsibility Advocates because we’re concerned about too-easy access to guns, which puts us all at risk.
In spite of how polarized this issue has become, we tried to forge a middle path. Here is our position, stated in 10 principles. If you agree, we would appreciate your “Yes” vote on the universal background check referendum (see wording below).
1) With rights come responsibilities. Because firearms involve lethal force, the responsibilities that accompany gun rights are significant.
2) Though the right to own and carry a gun is the law of the land, protected by recent Supreme Court decisions, almost everyone agrees that certain people should not have access to firearms (criminals and their straw purchasers, the seriously mentally ill, and minors).
3) Access to firearms by those who shouldn’t have them is currently too easy. This leads to an unacceptable level of gun violence nationwide.
4) The current patchwork quilt of gun regulation, combined with law enforcement efforts, is not effective enough at keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them and deterring those who misuse them. That’s why we need a single, simplified, unified, consistent approach — i.e. universal background checks with no exceptions.
5) We may not be able to prevent everyone who shouldn’t have a gun from getting one, but the situation can certainly be improved. We can take a significant step in the right direction. With voluntary efforts by responsible gun owners and through reasonable, common-sense regulation, we believe a better system can be devised that would make firearms less accessible to those who shouldn’t have them. That, in turn, will improve public safety for all.
6) If universal background check legislation can be devised that limits access to guns by the wrong people, and if that does not prevent law-abiding citizens from owning and bearing arms, then we believe responsible gun owners should be willing, in the interest of the common good, to accept a reasonable amount of regulation as their contribution to reducing crime and gun violence. We call this accepting the responsibilities that come with gun rights.
7) If both sides of the gun divide address this issue as allies instead of as adversaries, we stand a much better chance of making the kind of progress that people on both sides of this issue say they want — a safer society.
8) At this point, there is profound mistrust between gun rights advocates and gun responsibility advocates. Surveys suggest that the majority of gun rights advocates actually support background checks in theory, yet the lack of trust prevents them from saying so publicly — or cooperating to make it a reality.
9) Nonetheless, we believe that a single, nationwide background check with no exceptions (i.e. universal) is inevitable, despite the political obstacles that currently prevent it, because the vast majority of Americans favor it.
10) We believe communities like Oak Park should set an example for the rest of the country — and especially for our elected representatives — by making a strong, clear, public statement in support of something that is obviously needed and would not infringe upon the right of law-abiding, responsible adults to keep and bear arms.
To that end, we have put the following advisory referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot:
Shall the federal government enact legislation requiring universal background checks of criminal and mental health history records for all transfers of ownership or possession of firearms, including transfers which occur at gun shows, over the Internet and privately, as a step toward preventing the ownership or possession of firearms by criminals and those with serious mental illnesses, and as a step toward preventing illegal gun trafficking altogether?
There are other advisory referenda on the ballot. One is related to gun regulation but applies to all Cook County voters. Our referendum is limited to Oak Park. This is our chance to make a unified statement as a community. We hope other communities will follow our lead.
Please join us. Do it for everyone in this community and this country whose life has been altered by gun violence. Do it for those whose lives could still be altered by gun violence — in other words, for all of us.
Strong, clear statements have a way of turning into movements.
With your help, maybe we can start one here.