Last night, I was enjoying a cool summer evening at the Loyola Park baseball fields, watching my son on the mound for the Loyola Park Dodgers. He is happiest while pitching and I am happiest while he is happy. It's a win-win. But the night took a surreal turn.
Shots rang out from the corner near the field and we were quickly moving kids and spectators into the field house and out of danger. I fought back tears as I helped to herd the rest of the kids into the safety of the building.
Some of the kids, who probably have more experience with active shooter drills than the adults in the group, worried about the open doors and our visibility. I comforted my son and the kids nearby, wondering what the hell I should say to them. We learned that nobody had been hit and that the shooter had fled on foot, with police in pursuit. A few minutes later, a Park District staff person informed us that the game was called.
Let that sink in. A youth league baseball game was called on account of a shooting.
We were told it was safe to leave the building and I drove another family home, as well as one of my son's teammates whose parents had to run an errand during the game. I was thankful to have my son's teammate with us that night, as it created a much-needed distraction for us all. When we got home, I ordered pizza, listened to them play video games, and sent up a prayer of thanks that nobody was hurt.
And then I got pissed. What can be said of our beloved city when even a kids' baseball game isn't safe from gun violence? Why can't I, as an elected State Representative, make a difference in combating the violence plaguing our neighborhood? Why is this normal in neighborhoods all over our city?
I remembered a day just over 2 years ago when I stood up on the floor of the House and declared it was finally time for someone to be to be reasonable about common sense gun laws and took a vote in favor of
Senate Bill 836
, an NRA-supported bill. Immediately after that vote, the colleagues I referenced in that floor speech came over and promised to work with me to make things better. In that speech, I said very clearly, "I don't want your guns. I just don't want your guns showing up in my neighborhood anymore. I don't want to be afraid to send my children out to play. And I don't want to hear about anymore 4-year old babies with bullets in their brains."
That speech began with an anecdote about a recent shooting in the very same park we were in last night. And over the last two years, nothing has changed.
Since that speech, I have been working to pass a bill that could help stem the tide of illegal guns flowing into my neighborhood and others just like it. My late, beloved colleague, Esther Golar, asked me from her deathbed to take up this idea and I promised her that I would. It's a simple concept: if you can't keep track of your guns, you lose your FOID card. This is not a controversial concept. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible enough to secure their guns, and that responsibility is critical to everyone's safety. Those who do not take proper precautions against losing their guns do not deserve to have them in the first place.
House Bill 3390
, which would revoke an individual's FOID card if they report three or more instances where their guns were lost or stolen within 2 years or fail to report lost or stolen weapons that are recovered after crimes. This is a reasonable policy that deserves a proper hearing and debate on its merits.
I've asked those colleagues who approached me after that floor speech 2 years ago to help me advance HB 3390, and I've heard nothing but crickets. To be fair, I've heard at least once that they might be willing to support it if they got something in return, like legalizing the sale of silencers. But people's lives and neighborhoods are at stake. This is no time for political games. I didn't hold out support for SB 836 in exchange for political favors - instead, I supported it because I believe reasonable gun policies are critical to stemming the violence in our communities. My colleagues promised to join me in the effort to find the middle ground, but that simply hasn't happened.
The gun lobby is an outrageously unreasonable body. They don't care about the body count in our neighborhood. They don't care about our children's baseball games or the safety of our parks. They care only for the profits of the gun manufacturers, their only real constituency, and I was wrong to give them the benefit of the doubt.
No "law-abiding, responsible gun owner" cannot keep track of their guns. If anyone can offer testimony from one such person, I'm listening. But to anyone who thinks there's a good explanation for why a kids' baseball game should be called due to a shooting - I'll tell you right now, you're a damned liar.
You've pissed off the wrong mama bear.