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The Cook County Board of Commissioners has passed a resolution placing two non-binding advisory referenda on the ballots of Cook County voters in the Nov. 4 general election. Voters will be asked whether they support banning the sale of assault weapons and requiring universal background checks for firearm transfers and whether they believe the State should provide more funding for mental health treatment.
The first referendum will read:
“Shall the Illinois General Assembly enact the Illinois Public Safety Act (Senate Bill 3659) which would require universal background checks for firearm transfers and prohibit the sale and transfer of assault weapons, assault weapon attachments and high capacity ammunition magazines?”
The resolution was sponsored by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and nine members of the Board of Commissioners.
“Gun violence in our communities, particularly in the City of Chicago, is at a crisis point,” said Ms. Preckwinkle. “Requiring universal background checks and banning semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are simple, common-sense measures which should be enacted at the State level. This referendum will give the residents of Cook County the opportunity to make their voices heard.”
Each year, more than 1,000 people are killed by firearms in the State of Illinois, and more illegal guns per capita are confiscated in the City of Chicago than in either New York or Los Angeles. Current state and national law only requires background checks when licensed dealers sell firearms, covering only about 60% of total sales. Studies have shown that universal background checks significantly reduce the number of guns entering the illegal market.
A review of mass shootings by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that the use of an assault weapon or high-capacity magazine resulted in 135% more victims and 57% more deaths than did other mass shootings.
The Illinois Public Safety Act (Senate Bill 3659) was introduced into the Illinois Senate in May 2014 and referred to the Assignments Committee.
Mental Health Funding
The Cook County Board of Commissioners also approved a second referendum question that will appear on the November ballots of Cook County voters. It reads:
“Shall the General Assembly of the State of Illinois appropriate additional funds to provide necessary mental health services for the people of the State of Illinois.”
“Mental illness affects people of all ages, races, genders, and economic status. Mental health is critical to the well-being and vitality of our families, businesses and communities. It also plays an important role in public safety,” Ms. Preckwinkle said. “There’s no doubt that Springfield faces tough financial choices; however, we encourage the General Assembly to return to fully funding mental health services for the people of our state.”
“Mental health is an issue that touches across all spectrums of our community,” said Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman, the sponsor of the resolution. “We should not lose sight of the significant impact state funding cuts have had on mental health services at the local level. It’s time for Springfield to get its financial priorities in order, but not at the expense of those people who are most in need, especially in the area of mental health care. We need to have an open and honest conversation on the issue of mental health services in Illinois, and I believe this referendum will help us do just that,” she said.
The resolution was co-sponsored by Ms. Preckwinkle and all 17 members of the Board of Commissioners.