No single piece of legislation will solve the public health crisis of endemic gun violence in our state. But this January, we have a chance to make meaningful progress with the Protect Illinois Communities Act. It has the power to unite us, whether we’re in Highland Park or East Garfield Park, Evanston or Rockford.
That is what I heard at the first public hearing on the proposed legislation, and that is what I felt as I sat in the room, thinking about the future of my family, my community, and my country.
At the hearing Monday, Dec. 12, Lauren Bennett described, in searing detail, being shot twice in the back while running for her and her two sons’ lives at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade.
And we were all reminded that while terrible tragedies like what happened in Highland Park gain national media attention, this level of gun violence is regularly perpetrated – sometimes in a single weekend – in some neighborhoods of Chicago.
Rev. Cornelius Parks of First Bethel Baptist Church noted “It is easier to get an assault weapon than it is to get resources in my neighborhood,” referring to East Garfield Park, where 14 members of a single family were gunned down by a semi-automatic weapon on Halloween this year.
One message that was shared across all the testimony is that weapons of war and mass casualty have no place in our communities.
Illinois House Bill 5855 leads with a call for Illinois to ban the sale and possession of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and rapid fire conversion devices. These are common sense proposals that will save lives.
Now is the time for action. We must act with urgency and individual accountability for our collective safety. I call on my Evanston neighbors and fellow citizens to get involved in any way you can. File witness slips for hearings and legislative sessions. Draft letters of support or call your local and federal elected leaders. Or just show up: at legislative hearings, at vigils, at town halls, and most certainly whenever you have a ballot to cast.
Like meeting a bear in the wild, we must get as big and as loud as we possibly can to counter the growing threat of gun violence, a uniquely American problem. We must pass common sense gun safety measures, because, as Lauren Bennett said in her testimony, “[In America], we are all constantly in the line of fire, and until we [all] realize this, so shall we remain.”
Sara Hines, co-lead
Moms Demand Action