People raised their phones and candles during a candlelight vigil for Elijah Sims, who was shot in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago on Monday night. Elijah was a student at Oak Park and River Forest High School and worked at Pete's in Oak Park. The vigil was held on Aug. 31, which would have been his 17th birthday. | William Camargo/Staff Photographer

Sadly, I read the Rani Morrison letter today [A mom’s immediate response to murder, Dan Haley’s column, News, Aug. 31]. It was posted on FaceBook by my daughter who lives on South Taylor Avenue in Oak Park. She has an adopted African American son who is loved by all in our family and is a source of worry — not because of what he might do but because of what might happen just because of his skin color. 

I am not black. I cannot say that I “understand” the fear that Rani Morrison expresses because I do not live with the issue every minute of every day. I can say only that I am totally aligned with her in doing whatever, lawfully, might be done to mitigate the problem.

At the end of the day, we must have politicians in power who are willing to do the right thing on gun control. There are so many guns on the streets that gaining any control will take a lot of effort and money. The Supreme Court has recognized that the 2nd Amendment right is subject to reasonable regulation. We must get a grip on this and there is no better time than now

Also, our courts must sentence those who cause injury with guns unjustifiably with serious time and no parole. The police superintendent of Chicago has it right. Enough is enough. It is past enough. The courts must use the laws that are available to protect those who are victimized or are potential victims of gun violence.

I live in a community of about 19,000 in downstate Illinois. I have been here since 1980. In the past 2-3 years, the use and presence of guns by criminals in our city has grown. The city police are facing much more violent criminals and more danger in their routine duties. The historically peaceful cities of Champaign and Urbana have seen significant increases in gun violence. This is easy to see just by watching the evening news and reading the local papers. 

While it is no comfort to the folks in Oak Park and the Chicago area, it is accurate to say that such violence seems not to be limited to Cook County. I know this statement is contrary to what the FBI stats seem to be showing — those that indicate a decrease in violent crime — but a phone call to the police administrations in downstate communities over 20,000 population will likely confirm my observations. 

My uneducated conclusion: There is a societal breakdown that is widespread. It likely has many causes.

This may be one of the most difficult issues to face our nation since WWII, the Great Depression and the push to adopt the Civil Rights acts in the 1960s. It should be approached with the unlimited effort that it deserves. 

We must recognize that all reasonable investments must be made. It is a cancer that will continue to eat away at our society, and it is not enough to say that it is “too large” or “too complicated.” Even small steps with small gains are better than doing nothing.

We, as a family, also lived on South Taylor in the late 1960s. We were there when the 1968 Democratic Convention took place. We were there when Chicago and other cities stressed after the King and Kennedy assassinations. 

These current times are not reactions to obvious causes such as those but are nonetheless serious and, perhaps, more pervasive and, sadly, likely to be more enduring.

John Hefner is a former resident of Oak Park.

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