‘Significant first step’: Illinois leaders praise new federal gun violence law

President Joe Biden recognizes Gov. JB Pritzker and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering during a...
President Joe Biden recognizes Gov. JB Pritzker and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering during a speech at the White House on July 11, 2022.(White House press feed)
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 1:45 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Gov. J.B. Pritzker and several other Illinois leaders were at the White House Monday morning to celebrate the signing of the Safer Communities Act. President Joe Biden noted the new law is only the first step in protecting all Americans from attacks like the Highland Park mass shooting in the future.

The Safer Communities Act enhances background checks for gun buyers under 21, requiring checks by state police, local law enforcement, and courts before a gun can be sold. It also includes $750 million for crisis intervention services over the next five years to support red flag laws and $250 million for community-based violence intervention programs. The plan provides new resources to expand community mental health services and violence prevention efforts for schools.

Uvalde doctor Roy Guerrero said he spends half his days convincing kids that no one is coming for them and that they are safe. Although, the pediatrician explained it is hard to say that knowing that weapons used in that attack are still freely available.

“I invite everyone to move forward from this start of the change that will allow all of our children to make it to the end of our fight, which is a world where safety in schools is never doubted and weapons of war are not allowed in our communities,” Guerrero said.

He joined the chorus of many people across the country calling for a ban on assault weapons. Biden spoke before a large crowd of lawmakers and gun violence survivors on the South Lawn. The president said there is no rationale for assault weapons outside of war zones and the least the country can do is require civilians receive proper training like the military.

Pritzker recently said he would like to see Illinois lawmakers act on gun legislation to keep families safe. Pritzker, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, and Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neil met with Biden in the Oval Office following the scheduled event.

“I want to particularly thank the governor of Illinois and the mayor of Highland Park for being here,” Biden said. “We had a number of conversations immediately after the attack in Highland Park. I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve handled things. It’s been extraordinary. As the three of us have discussed, we have more to do.”

The governor tweeted later Monday morning that investing in mental health, school safety, and crisis intervention program can help target the root of the country’s gun violence program.

“This is progress - but we need to and will do more, like banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” Pritzker said. “I am committed to getting this done in Illinois and nationally.”

Rep. Bob Morgan and Sen. Julie Morrison also joined Pritzker and the Highland Park leaders at the White House. Both lawmakers representing the northern suburb have called for action following the horrific attack that left seven dead and dozens injured.

Morgan said he is grateful that Biden sees the Safer Communities Act as a significant step forward. Still, Morgan said this is the first of many laws needed at the state and federal levels to address the root causes of gun violence. He also believes the issue can’t be addressed by just investing in mental health and violence prevention services. Morgan told the Capitol Bureau last week that lawmakers need to come together and create common-sense solutions.

“All of it, literally all of it, is on the table,” Morgan said. “And the idea that anything has to be taken off because it’s too precious I think ignores the idea that us surviving isn’t more precious than all of it.”

Members of the Gun Violence Prevention PAC attended Monday’s celebration as well. The organization is renewing calls for Illinois lawmakers to immediately ban assault weapons.

“While we recognize this major accomplishment and step forward, it’s only a first step that I’m hopeful could be turned into momentum to further strengthen federal gun laws,” said G-PAC President and CEO Kathleen Sances. “Since its passage, G-PAC has called for an assault weapons ban and high capacity magazine limit, and we won’t stop pushing for progress until state and federal leaders finish the job.”

Survivors of the Highland Park shooting started a petition for an assault weapons ban that already has more than 56,000 signatures.

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