Saturday morning just beyond the Farmers Market, under sunny skies with powerful gusting winds, hopefully at our backs, Judy Gaetto-Grace and I, members of the citizens group Gun Responsibility Advocates, spent a couple of hours asking shoppers and other passersby to vote for the first referendum you’ll find on the Nov. 6 ballot:
Shall firearms be required to be stored in a safe and secure manner that prevents access by unauthorized persons when such firearms are not under the direct personal control of the owner?
We’re asking citizens to vote Yes.
And once they vote Yes, we’ll take those numbers to the Oak Park Village Board and ask them to pass a safe gun storage ordinance applicable to all gun owners in Oak Park.
We did something similar four years ago, asking citizens if they would support a federal (i.e. nationwide) universal background check system (no loopholes). Just under 93% said Yes. We took those numbers to the Oak Park and River Forest village boards, respectively, and both responded by adopting resolutions of support for such legislation.
Four years later, we still don’t have a nationwide universal background check system — in spite of Newtown, Las Vegas, Parkland, and so many other preventable mass murders — but we knew that would be the case going in. The Republicans, snoring comfortably and corruptly in the deep pockets of the NRA, are holding the federal government hostage, and until voters break that stranglehold, either this November or in 2020, nothing will get done.
In the meantime, we’re trying to be part of a groundswell that will turn into a tsunami, which will shatter that stranglehold, eventually, however long it takes.
A safe gun storage ordinance is another step in building that groundswell.
On Saturday, it was a pretty easy sell — as it should be. You might even call it a no-brainer. Many were surprised Oak Park didn’t already have such an ordinance. And as one of the passersby noted, “It’s not a no-brainer until we actually get it passed.”
Why pass a law that seems so obvious? Laws articulate societal expectations. It gives parents greater comfort to ask other parents who have just invited their child over to play, “Do you have a gun in the house and is it securely stored?” Statistics amply demonstrate that having a gun in your home dramatically raises the odds of your child, not to mention other children, being harmed. An ordinance would also have an impact on suicide since it tends to be an impulsive act, made more likely by the presence of an unsecured gun.
Even more pertinent, it has been estimated that up to 40% of guns used in crimes were stolen from lawful gun owners whose homes were broken into — when the owners were not at home and guns were left around for the taking.
Gun owners claim they need a gun at home to protect themselves and their loved ones. But home invasions, i.e. when owners are present to defend themselves, are extremely rare. Burglars aren’t that dumb. They strike when no one is around. Gun owners, however, use self-defense as an excuse to secure the right to keep guns at home, then criminals steal their unsecured guns and commit crimes with them, and then gun rights advocates complain that “law-abiding” gun owners are not the problem and shouldn’t be subjected to such onerous laws.
They also claim they need ready access in the event of an intruder, but gun safes with fingerprint ID technology now provide that ready access.
A safe gun storage ordinance is a way to remind gun owners, who are very loud proponents of gun rights but deafeningly silent about gun responsibility, that their “inalienable” right to own and bear arms comes with an “inalienable” responsibility to actively help the rest of us reduce gun violence. And that means supporting common-sense legislation that will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and kids and those suffering from mental illness.
Voting Yes on the need for a safe gun storage ordinance, even though the referendum is non-binding (i.e. advisory), sends a clear message: It is the overwhelming consensus of Oak Park citizens to do more to reduce gun violence partly by passing laws that keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. A referendum gives us numbers to underscore the full extent of the will of the people.
In other words, a no-brainer.
Of course, it’s also a no-brainer that citizens should vote into political exile the party that wants to take away health care from millions of Americans, including people with pre-existing conditions; who haven’t done anything to change the system that saddles our college grads with unbearable student debt; who cut taxes for the wealthy, which increases the national debt and deficit in a time of already severe economic inequality; who steal a Supreme Court seat and then confirm an individual who proved himself unfit, by temperament, to be a Supreme Court justice; who refuse to fulfill their constitutional duty to serve as a check on a dangerously erratic and corrupt White House; who think the solution to immigration lies in separating children from their parents at the border; who turn a blind eye to a president who alienates allies and is best buddies with murderous, despotic rulers from North Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia; who accuse the other party of “mob rule” when the only mob mentality in evidence can be found at the president’s own Make Me Great Again campaign rallies and the white supremacist marches he praises; and who won’t pass legislation to counteract climate change even though the scientific warnings are growing louder and more urgent as we rapidly approach the point of no return.
A Blue Wave should be a no-brainer — if only the millennials and Latinos turn out in force to vote on Nov. 6.
Even though they never have before.
As that passerby pointed out, none of this is a no-brainer until it actually happens.