Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Arlington Heights Daily Herald. July 7, 2022.

Editorial: Now is the time to review Illinois gun laws

As all of us try, and most of us fail, to wrap our heads around the unspeakably tragic, pointless loss of life in Highland Park on the Fourth of July, one theme that has been recurring over the last 24 hours is the question of why Illinois gun laws weren’t enough to prevent the shooter from getting his weapons of mass destruction.

Illinois has what many people consider among the most stringent gun laws in the nation. We require adults to have Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) cards to both buy and possess guns. We are among 19 states that have “red flag” provisions enabling law enforcement to seize weapons from people considered unstable or dangerous.

Yet, despite circumstances that could have raised suspicion, those laws weren’t enough to stop Monday’s shooter from meticulously planning and then carrying out a rooftop attack that killed seven people and injured about 40 more. Maybe nothing would have stopped the carnage. But consider that this is not the first time there have been questions about the efficacy of Illinois’ gun laws.

• In 2018, a Morton, Illinois, native convicted of killing four people at a restaurant in Tennessee in 2018 had earlier surrendered his guns to his father after he claimed the singer Taylor Swift was stalking him. The father gave the weapons back to him, and one of them was used in the Tennessee shooting. In May of this year, the man’s father was convicted of returning the guns, as Illinois law prohibits giving or selling a firearm to someone who has been treated in a mental health facility within five years.

• In 2019, a man who had been banned from owning a gun for five years nevertheless still had one, and used it to fatally shoot five people at an Aurora factory where he worked.

• This week, police report they seized 16 knives, a sword and a dagger from the Highland Park shooting suspect in 2019, at a time when the suspect did not have a FOID card. He later received a FOID card from the Illinois State Police, and authorities believe he bought several guns in the years since, all legally. The ISP has since issued a statement, ” ... that at the time of FOID application review in January of 2020, there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger and deny the FOID application.”

Of course, it’s true that no law will prevent everyone who shouldn’t have a firearm from getting one. But we still must at least make it hard for dangerous individuals to get guns, and we need to be sure that we’re properly administering the strict laws already on the books. So, the time is right -- and the political will appears ripe -- to discuss Illinois laws and look for loopholes that can be closed legislatively.

We don’t want knee-jerk reaction to the massacre in Highland Park. We start by assuming that Illinois legislators are serious people who take gun violence seriously, and that cogent, well-informed discussions can take us to a better place.

During the final week in June, President Joe Biden signed federal legislation that indicates the nation as a whole is moving toward Illinois on guns. Among other things, the law provides $750 million to help states implement and run crisis intervention programs, like “red flag” authorizations, crisis interventions and mental health, drug and veterans courts. The law bars from having a gun anyone who is convicted of a domestic violence crime against someone with whom they have a relationship.

Illinois is in a position of leadership. We urge legislators to continue to stake out the high ground on this issue, and give serious thought to how we can improve our own laws.

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Chicago Tribune. July 11, 2022.

Editorial: For Cooper Roberts’ sake, close loopholes that weaken Illinois gun safety laws

If lawmakers need motivation to beef up gun safety laws, they should read the agonized statement from the family of 8-year-old Cooper Roberts, now paralyzed from the waist down after a gunman armed with a high-powered rifle rained bullets on and around Highland Park’s Independence Day parade.

The bullet struck the boy’s upper abdomen and tore through his liver, esophagus and abdominal aorta before severing his spinal cord and exiting through his back. The damage to his aorta was severe enough that doctors had to replace the damaged segment with an adult-sized synthetic graft that he eventually will grow into. Surgeons at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital also repaired his liver and esophagus.

“He is in a great deal of pain — physically and emotionally — especially as the family had to share with him the devastating news that he is paralyzed from the waist down,” the statement added.

We have our doubts that politicians either at the state or federal level — particularly those that blindly hew to the gun lobby’s resistance to commonsense reforms — will be moved to action by the trauma Cooper endured and will endure, or by the rest of the pain and carnage inflicted in Highland Park. Seven people were shot to death and more than 30 more were injured, allegedly by Robert “Bobby” Crimo III, in the latest of a wrenching litany of mass shootings that tragically and needlessly has become a defining characteristic of today’s America.

As the Tribune reported Sunday, attempts by the Illinois General Assembly to ramp up gun safety in recent years have left behind loopholes that still give people who shouldn’t have guns the ability to obtain, or retain, firearms.

One of those individuals was Gary Martin, who when told by supervisors in 2019 he was being fired, pulled out a .40-caliber handgun and shot to death five people at the Aurora valve manufacturing plant where he worked. As a convicted felon, Martin never should have been allowed to have a gun. His firearm owner’s identification card had been revoked, but there was no follow-up from law enforcement to ensure he had surrendered his handgun.

Last year, we wrote about that unaddressed loophole. “The law that bans people with revoked FOIDs from having guns is already on the books; what has been missing is the means to facilitate enforcement of that law,” we wrote.

The same year that Martin killed five people at his workplace, Highland Park police deemed Crimo a “clear and present danger.” Police were told Crimo had made threats to “kill everyone,” and officers found more than a dozen knives in his bedroom closet. Months earlier, police were called to the house where Crimo lived because he had allegedly attempted suicide.

But at the time, he did not have an Illinois gun permit, and wasn’t applying for one. Eventually the “clear and present danger” designation was cleared from state recordkeeping, and when Crimo later applied for and was given a FOID card, there was nothing in the state’s records to flag him as a threat. He thus legally bought several firearms, including the Smith & Wesson M&P semi-automatic rifle that prosecutors say he used in the Fourth of July attack.

That’s another gaping loophole. Illinois State Police officials say there’s nothing currently in state law that would have kept Crimo from getting a gun permit and buying firearms. They’re right, which is exactly why lawmakers in Springfield must make rectifying deficiencies in Illinois gun safety laws a top priority.

But the responsibility doesn’t lie solely with lawmakers. Voters must research where candidates running in the November midterm elections stand on strengthening gun safety laws. Does the pain, trauma and difficult future that Cooper faces matter to these candidates? Do the lives lost in Highland Park, in Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo, New York, and countless other sites of mass shootings matter to them?

If not, voters need to know, and they need to keep out of office politicians who don’t embrace sensible gun safety reform.

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Chicago Sun-Times. July 5, 2022.

Editorial: One for the books: Next secretary of state should continue to champion libraries

Retiring incumbent Jesse White is widely regarded as having used his position to help libraries, readers, writers and lifelong learners.

Whoever is elected Illinois secretary of state in the fall — Democrat Alexi Giannoulias or Republican state Rep. Dan Brady — we hope the winner maintains the strong support for libraries exhibited by Jesse White, who is leaving the office after six terms.

Besides running more than 20 other departments, the secretary of state acts as Illinois’ chief librarian and state archivist. White is widely regarded as having used his position to champion libraries, readers, writers and lifelong learners at a time when access to dependable information is critically important.

White’s many initiatives include the Public Library Construction Program; Project Next Generation, which brings youth into libraries; the Talking Book and Braille Service; and the Veterans History Project. His Expanding Digital Inclusion: Transforming Library Services program makes laptops available for checkout.

During his administration, close to $100 million has been spent on improving libraries and expanding services. He gave nearly $6 million to help libraries cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. White accomplished all that even during periods of budget austerity.

All of this is important to Illinois. Libraries encourage reading and literacy. They open doors to culture and knowledge. They provide educational resources, access to digital databases many people can’t afford and internet connectivity to those who don’t have it. They offer adult and children’s programming and ESL (English as a second language) instruction. Many provide maker spaces with 3-D printers that encourage creativity. Many provide bookmobiles and homebound services that are a lifeline to those who can’t travel to a library. Local libraries have been called the people’s university.

Like many institutions, libraries have struggled to adapt to changes in the information age. But they are also incredible resources for helping patrons, particularly those without many of their own resources, to navigate the modern world and the complexities of modern life, from health care research to getting passports. Libraries are essential to building strong communities.

Over the years, we have heard from countless people who recall how spending time in libraries when they were young nurtured their intellectual curiosity and understanding of the world.

Illinois must make sure its libraries remain strong, for those who need library services and for everyone who thirsts for knowledge.

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