On Saturday, February 24th State Rep. Ann Williams hosted a community meeting responding to gun violence in wake of the Parkland school shooting. The meeting was hosted at the Chicago Public Library Lincoln Belmont Branch and focused on an informal discussion about the challenges of changing the culture of guns, and how we can come together as a community to take steps to address gun violence. Joining the conversation were experts and organizers including Colleen Daley from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Patrick Korellis, an advocate and survival of the NIU school shooting, Dawn Valenti from Chicago Survivors, and Emerson Toomey, a Lane Tech Student and organizer for the Lane Tech School Walkout and March for Our Lives Chicago.
There were over 60 members of the community who attended the meeting and brought with them their concerns over the increasing instances of mass shootings and the accessibility of guns in Illinois. The meeting was structured as a Q&A session, where people had the chance to raise their concerns about gun violence and discuss different barriers they perceive in the fight to pass new gun legislation. This discussion focused on the importance of passing newly introduced gun legislation and ensuring that guns are kept out of the hands of people who would misuse them. Speakers also shared their personal experiences in dealing with gun violence and lobbying for gun restrictions, which created a discussion that addressed all sides of the issue. There was also conversation about the differences between State and Federal legislation regarding gun purchasing and possession, and how Illinois’s gun control legislation compares to that of other states.
The community meeting offered a space where community members could voice their concerns, frustrations, and anger towards the epidemic of mass shootings and gun violence in general. Since the community meeting, new gun legislation has made significant progress in Springfield. In particular, the Gun Dealer Licensing Act, SB1657, passed the Illinois House with strong bipartisan support and was sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. If you are interested in advocating for the passage of this act, join the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition and the Illinois Council against Handgun Violence by singing onto their petitions urging the Governor to sign the Gun Dealer Licensing Act into law. Be sure to check in with Ann’s website and newsletters to learn about other upcoming community meetings and events focused on gun violence and other important issues.