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Illinois Democrats hope to keep children safe from gun violence through ‘Fix the FOID’ proposal

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- Democratic lawmakers are continuing their push for legislation to fix the FOID card system. It could require Illinois gun owners to provide their fingerprints when purchasing a gun.

The Illinois Gun Violence Prevention PAC says fire arms are the leading cause of death for children and teens in Illinois. According to a 2019 CDC study, Black children are 14 times more likely to die from gun violence over their white peers.

The groups president, Kathleen Sances explained similar bills have passed in Connecticut. By combining universal background checks with a licensing system, Connecticut saw a 40% decrease in gun violence. In 2019, the state only lost 11 children and teens to gun violence.

"We know from, you know, the work that's going on at the national level, clearly there's over 90% support nationally and in our state for universal background checks," said Sances. "Every gun sale should have a background check and I don't think that's a hard idea to wrap your head around."

However, a large group of republicans and gun owners are against this issue. Rep. Patrick Windhorst (D-Metropolis) said he doesn't believe the FOID card can solve the gun violence problem.

"I don't know that continuing to put additional regulations or requirements into our laws is going to do anything to prevent future violence," said Windhorst. "It's more a matter of looking at what we have and making sure the laws that are there are being enforced."

Windhorst said there are other ways to address this issue in Illinois, including better education about guns and mental health services.

Preventing mass shootings

Lawmakers first filed the proposal after the 2019 shooting that took place in Aurora, Illinois. The shooter in that case had his FOID card revoked. However, he still possessed firearms. He opened fire at the Henry Pratt Company killing five people, including 32-year-old Clay Parks. Now, Clay's wife Abby stressed the importance of passing this bill so someone else won't experience the pain of losing a loved one.

"I certainly don't wish that on anybody," said Parks. "I think I feel kind of a sense of duty to lend my voice to this cause because it's important and because I do think that making these kind of common sense changes can save peoples lives."

Parks said Illinois needs significant improvements when it comes to gun violence prevention. She said their are loopholes that need to be closed and this legislation would fix that.

"Is it going to be a perfect fix," asked Parks. "No, because nothings perfect and you know, anything can happen."

Phil Andrews, a former FBI agent and gun violence victim, said the proposal could help prevent gun violence from taking the lives of more innocent children.

"This is our number one priority, this is the number one thing we should be focused on because it protects our children and our communities," said Andrews.

Input from lawmakers

Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison) is the House version of the bill. She stressed this isn't an idea lawmakers thought up overnight. Willis said this is something many have been fighting for, spanning over a decade.

"I think we have to look into realistically, what we can do to prevent the wrong people from having it," said Willis. "If you're a lawful gun owner, you have nothing to be afraid of in this bill."

Windhorst argues it's a violation of the second amendment to require gun owners to provide their finger prints. Yet, the Republican lawmaker agreed communities need to work together in order to solve the larger issue.

"We want to see less violence in our communities, and the way to do that is by addressing the issues that's causing the violence, not necessarily focusing the emphasis on the firearm, but focusing on what actually caused the violence."

Back on the other side of the aisle, Sen. Ram Villivalum (D-Chicago) sponsors the Senate version of the bill.

"I strongly believe that we're trying to address both the mass tragedies and the every day gun violence in this legislation," said Villivalum. "I do believe we'll have a positive impact on reducing the unacceptable nature of this violence."

Still, Windhorst said there are deeper structural and other societal problems that are leading to some of these issues.

"We have to work on those issues and that will reduce the violence in our community, that will bring down the number of mass shootings that we're seeing," said Windhorst. "It will lead to a more peaceful society; what we ultimately want."

Both bills out of the House and Senate are still up for debate in their committees.

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Ali Rasper

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