Thank you, Oak Park. Thank you for your overwhelming support (91.5%) for the advisory referendum question on the Nov. 6 ballot asking if you support the enactment of legislation requiring the safe storage of firearms.
While you obviously already understand the need for reasonable firearm regulation, you may well have wondered why you were being asked about the narrow issue of safe firearm storage and “why now?”
One of the most important goals of reasonable firearm regulation is restricting access to firearms by criminals, the dangerously mentally or emotionally disabled and minors. Two of the most significant ways in which people in these prohibited classifications obtain firearms is to purchase them and to steal them.
The most effective way to restrict the ability of these prohibited people to purchase firearms is to require Universal Background Checks (UBC) on a nationwide basis, which will weed them out prior to the purchase of firearms, and to mandate that all gun dealers at the state level require all of the documentation and specified record information of prospective purchasers necessary to accomplish that goal. Gun dealers at the state level should also be required to maintain and make available for inspection, all such documentation and specified record information with respect to every firearms purchase (which you also supported in the countywide referendum on Nov. 6). Grassroots efforts on federal UBC legislation and Illinois Gun Dealers legislation were both initiated several years ago and the real question on both seems to be, “When will they be enacted into law?”
Several months after the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook, 53 U.S. senators voted in favor of UBC legislation falling seven votes short of the 60 votes required to override a filibuster. That occurred more than 5 years ago. In the intervening years, the NRA has funneled enough money to Congress to keep UBC legislation from seeing the light of day. Special interest money, however, can only subvert the will of the people for so long, particularly when 90% of the voting public has expressed its clear will that such legislation be adopted. The sad truth is that, despite growing public support for such legislation and decreasing congressional resistance, the need for both is constantly reinforced by the endless epidemic of tragic and senseless mass shootings.
Great progress has been made in the last two years with respect to state regulation of gun dealers. Last year a bipartisan majority of Illinois legislators, led by Oak Park state Senator Don Harmon among others, voted in favor of gun dealer regulation by passing HB 1697 and forwarded it to then-governor Rauner for signature, only to have Rauner veto the bill. A new bill was then crafted which addressed minor concerns of some legislators but did not change the substance of the bill. There is a strong likelihood that Governor Pritzker and a new State legislature will be more disposed to reasonable firearms regulation, so this important bill may soon be adopted into law. The county referendum question on requiring state certification for all Illinois gun dealers and increasing firearm trafficking penalties produced a 94.35% positive vote in Oak Park and a countywide positive vote of 90.5%.
With strong public support for these two pieces of federal and state legislation further restricting the ability of criminals, the dangerously mentally and/or emotionally disabled and minors to purchase firearms clearly in place, we need to focus public attention on restricting the other major means by which people, otherwise disqualified from firearm ownership, obtain access to them — theft.
The most effective way to restrict the theft of firearms from the home is to require their safe and secure storage. In spite of that, little has been done at the federal, state or local levels to restrict the theft of firearms from the home. Locks on secure storage areas, gun locks, separation of firearms and ammunition, smart guns and firearm safes are a few of the ways to achieve this.
In addition to preventing theft, there are other significant societal benefits to safe and secure firearm storage, including a reduction in firearm related suicides and the accidental deaths of children.
The fact remains that there is work to be done at every level to make safe and secure firearms storage legislation a reality and that work now has a foundation upon which to build. The people of Oak Park have declared to their legislators at all levels by their vote on Nov. 6 that they overwhelmingly support the enactment of legislation requiring the safe and secure storage of firearms.
Now the work begins. Gun Responsibility Advocates, the local advocacy group working to reduce gun violence, will take the referendum outcome to the Oak Park Village Board and ask them to pass a safe gun storage ordinance applicable to all gun owners in Oak Park.
Ray Heise, Maarten Bosland, John Barrett, Joyce Champelli, Sandra Shimon, Judi Gaetto-Grace, John Troelstrup, Paul Sakol, Hilda Schlatter, Ed McDevitt, and Ken Trainor are members of the Gun Responsibility Advocates.