Last Monday, I attended the 33rd Annual Lincoln Awards Luncheon of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence(ICHV). This year’s award recipient was Democratic U.S. Representative Robin Kelly of the 2nd Congressional District. Since long before she was elected to the U.S. House, Congresswoman Kelly has been striving to find ways to reduce the tragedy of gun violence in our society. The ICHV Award recognized her efforts.
Among her comments, Representative Kelly spoke of her attempts to find common ground on the gun issue with Congressional colleagues from both sides of the aisle. For instance, right now there is a push by the NRA to make gun silencers legal. (They have been illegal for civilians for decades in the United States, along with the sawed-off shotgun.)
Hoping to find a Republican legislator who might have a personal perspective on this issue, she made an appointment to speak with Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise. Representative Scalise was one of four congressmen shot while playing baseball with colleagues in Washington D.C.
Kelly was only given 5 minutes of the congressman’s time but made the most of it. She immediately got into a discussion about silencer legalization. She pointed out that if Scalise’s crazy assailant’s gun had been equipped with a silencer a lot more shots could have been fired and people injured or killed before anyone knew what was actually happening. She added that the same could be said about the crowd in the Las Vegas shootings.
But even with such clear logic against silencers staring him in the face, Congressman Scalise told Robin that he will support the legalization of silencers. To me the congressman’s response was mind-boggling. It reminded me once again of how firm the grip of the NRA has become on too many legislators, and how successful the “guns make us safer” propaganda has become as an NRA tool to influence voters.
Robin Kelly’s anecdote also reminded me of a time when thing’s were a bit more sane. Back in 2003, Wilmette still had an ordinance that prohibited Wilmette residents from keeping personal handguns in their homes. But in December of that year a Wilmette homeowner (defying that restriction) shot a burglar. The shooting made headlines. It also led to a number of letters to the editor of the Wilmette Life from citizens who insisted this was proof that more guns in our homes would make us safer.
Their letters led me to write a tongue-in-cheek letter to the editor praising the “guns make us safer” position. But my message suggested we go further.
I said that because I have a front and a back door in my townhouse I wanted a gun handy at each entrance, with a third gun available on my second floor. Away from home I wanted to always have a shoulder holstered gun on me as well as a gun in the glove compartment of each of our cars. I also expressed concern for the safety of our kids when they’re away from their armed dad or our fortified home or auto. I advocated arming every crossing guard and classroom teacher. Once our kids reach 16, I suggested handing them their own personal weapon — if they’re old enough to drive they’re old enough to pack a pistol. And as for Wilmette senior residents, made vulnerable by old age, I urged equipping every walker and wheelchair with a holstered handgun. — I ended my letter by urging everyone in Wilmette to support such “common sense” steps so that together we can make Wilmette “The safest town in the USA!”
At the time I thought my satirical language, filled with goofy exaggeration, would point out the foolishness of believing that simply arming more people will make all of us more safe. – I thought that the gun-laden world I suggested was preposterous.
Boy was I naïve!
Today, fifteen years later, higher courts have ruled Wilmette’s ban on handguns in homes is unenforceable. Today, concealed carry is now allowed in Illinois. (To our state’s credit we were the last of the 50 states to allow this.) And today as I write this, schoolteachers in a number of states are on firing ranges practicing with the handguns they will bring to their classroom. — Right now nine states allow teachers to carry weapons inside the classroom. Another nine allow weapons to be carried in school parking lots and kept in locked cars. Only 11 states in the country have laws that prohibit carrying handguns on school or university property.
I realize that repeated gun tragedies such as the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School have stoked public fear, leading us to where we now are. But the majority of Americans still do understand that reasonable gun laws need to be implemented.
The truth is, fear of the NRA controls too many congressmen like Steve Scalise. Their cowardice has blocked sensible laws that might have prevented Sandy Hook or if implemented now could guard against another such tragedy. Sadly, today finding any healthy compromise with these puppets of the gun lobby seems highly unlikely. — Near the end of her comments, Congresswoman Kelly summed up what urgently needs to be done: “We’ve got to change who’s in Congress.”
NTDO member since 1973
P.S. In researching for this commentary, I came across some interesting facts in the a women’s website named Romper. Here is an excerpt:
— “The American Journal of Public Health reports that ‘states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.’ They also reported that every time gun ownership rates in a state increase, the firearm homicide rate also increases.”
— “A study done by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health concluded thatstates with the strictest gun control laws had lower rates of gun-related deaths.”
I wish more members of Congress had the guts to legislate based on these facts.