SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Some of the state’s most prominent elected officials renewed calls for tighter gun control laws after the mass shootings in Colorado and Georgia.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Governor J.B. Pritzker predicted the mass shootings “will accelerate some of those conversations.”
“Unfortunately, we have had mass shootings in Illinois,” Pritzker said. “I very much want to make sure that we’re securing our families with proper gun safety legislation.”
“We’re facing a pandemic and a pandemic of gun violence,” Senator Dick Durbin said at a separate Friday press conference in Chicago.
“We have 350 million people in the U.S. and about 434-million guns,” he said. “Last year was the biggest year for the sale of fire arms a 60% increase. Two million were sold in the first two months this year. We are awash in guns in America.”
“What we’re trying to focus on is something that 90% of the American people agree on,” Durbin said. “We should do everything in our power to keep firearms out of the hands of convicted felons and people who are mentally unstable. This could make lives safer. 60% of the gunowners think it’s a good idea.”
Mass shootings often attract the most attention but are not the primary source of gun violence. In 2019, one out of every 400 gun deaths was the result of a mass shooting. More than half of the country’s total gun deaths are from suicides.
The New York Times reports the toll of gun deaths approaches the death count from pancreatic cancer. When gun violence is counted as a single category which includes homicides, suicides and accidents, it kills about 40 thousand Americans a year.
State senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) proposed expanded background checks and fingerprint requirements for Firearm Owners Identification card holders in Illinois.
“We have somehow figured out how to manage this pandemic in the last 12 months and make sure people are preventing the contraction of COVID; yet, we have not taken action yet on how we can address mass tragedies,” Villivalam said on Capitol Connection.
Villivalam cited research from Johns Hopkins University, and said, “if we implement fingerprinting, if we do background checks, if we ensure that there’s a strong licensing system in our state, and make sure that the Illinois State Police have the resources they need to remove illegal guns from folks that shouldn’t have them, we will reduce gun deaths and gun violence by 40%.”
“We want to make sure that if you want to own a FOID card in the state of Illinois, if we’re able to obtain your fingerprint, we’ll be able to identify who you are and if you should have a gun,” he said. “We are not in any way trying to take away any rights of responsible gun owners.”
State senator Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) opposed the fingerprint requirement and questioned if the Pritzker administration is purposefully dragging its feet on processing FOID renewals.
“Who is going to control those fingerprints,” Bryant asked. “How long are they going to stay on file?”
She asked, “Why would you need a fingerprint to have the gun?”
“For those who are otherwise law abiding citizens, who are exercising their second amendment right, they’re being fingerprinted as if they were a criminal,” she said. “No, that’s not right.”
“I don’t support the FOID card in the first place,” Bryant clarified.
She criticized the Pritzker administration and Illinois State Police for the mounting backlog of unprocessed FOID card renewal applications that she claimed is preventing gun owners from the ability to legally purchase ammunition.
“18 months later, they still haven’t received their FOID card, even though the state police have taken their check, and cashed their check,” she said.
“I would challenge the governor at this point,” Bryant said. “There’s been no help given to the state police to alleviate the backlog for people who have a second amendment constitutional right to own those firearms, who have FOID cards, who are going through the legal process as it sits, and they’re waiting 18 months to get those FOID cards.”
“I would question whether or not it’s purposeful to continue the backlog,” Bryant said.