It's pretty rare that I'm speechless, or don't know exactly what to say, or at least have a general idea of what I want to say.
But, I'm drawing a pretty good blank at the moment.
A little over 3 years ago, I was introduced to the idea of Gun Dealer Licensing. I was sat down, and it was explained to me in detail. I listened, I asked questions...I conjectured. It made sense to me. I was no stranger to gun violence in Chicago, and I had heard the term "straw purchaser", and about the nefarious reputations of some of the gun dealers in the Chicagoland area.
And so I was recruited to help where I could to help create greater understanding and support of the bill, which at the time was HB1016. In fact, on May 25, 2016, I posted a blog on Why Illinois Needed HB1016, The Gun Dealer Licensing Act. Unfortunately, the bill then had too many issues to gain bipartisan support.
Hell, that was even before there was an Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition. From what I could tell, there was a small band of faithfuls, politicians and policy advisers, working hand in hand. Over time, a coalition was born, and greater national attention was garnered.
I wish I could say I was there from the beginning. But I wasn't. I'm not sure when the beginning was. But standing here today, having only a few hours ago seeing SB1657 pass the Illinois House of Representatives with a vote of 64-51, I'm simply proud to say that I was a part of the process.
If you haven't heard, Gun Dealer Licensing was simply one of several pieces of gun violence legislation that was passed in the Illinois legislature today. The other bills include:
- HB1467 - Ban the sale of bump stocks and trigger cranks
- HB1468 - Require a 72-hour mandatory waiting period after the purchase of an assault weapon
- HB1465 - Ban the sale of assault weapons to those under 21
There is still more motion to be done in the realm of gun violence prevention legislation with HB3160 - Lethal Violence Order of Protection, which would allow a petitioner to request an emergency lethal violence order of protection if a responded poses an immediate and present danger to themselve or others, resulting in a temporary revocation of their ability to purchase and keep firearms. Finally, the Bauer Bill is expected to make moves in Springfield, which would ban the sales of body armor to non law enforcement personnel, as well as banning high capacity magazines.
This is what is going down in the GVP movement (Gun Violence Prevention) in the wake of Parkland, Florida. This morning, I had the pleasure to hear Cardinal Blase Cupich give a speech urging lawmakers to consider gun control legislation, as well as offering kudos to the young activists across the nation that are forcing us grownups to meet our responsibilities and do something, rather than years of doing nothing.
The highlight of the day for me though was the seconds after the call of vote on Gun Dealer Licensing. As the number ticked up, and everyone looked for the Ayes to surpass 60. When it became obvious that the bill would pass, I looked over at my dear friend Delphine, a mother and tireless activist who lost 2 of her children to gun violence, 20 years apart. Then I saw the face of another friend and ally, Maria, who lost her son to gun violence.
This victory today was theirs. I hugged them both and told them congratulations. This victory was for all my students whose communities get fucked by dirtbag gun dealers who will do anything for a few extra dollars.
After the vote, I walked down to the ground floor of the Capitol Building Rotunda. I sat by myself, answering texts, and Facebook messages, and watching the Twitter messages rack up. From there, I began the 2 mile walk from the Capitol to my dinner plans, with great music bumping in my ears. Walking with great music is a great way to decompress for me.
On my walk, I listened to the Mayor of Chicago's press conference on all the legislation, particularly Gun Dealer Licensing. I'm always happy to hear people raising awareness about GVP issues, but I had one problem with his speech.
He thanked a lot of people, but I thought there were a few names he either forgot, or didn't spend enough time offering kudos to.
First and foremost, Representative Kathleen Willis and State Senator Don Harmon, the sponsors of the bill. Kathleen Willis was like a warrior today. Many of her colleagues whipped out their phones, went to the NRA webpage, and read every bullshit anti-gun legislation argument they could muster, and Representative Willis took it all in stride, just as I'd seen Don Harmon do in his respective chamber. Sometimes, you gotta give credit where credit is due.
Also, I think two unsung heroes of today's victory are the legislative advocacy team of Colleen Daley and Mark Walsh. When no one, other than the sponsors and the NRA gave a shit about Gun Dealer Licensing, Colleen, Executive Director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, and Mark Walsh, Campaign Director, were knee deep in the trenches, slugging it out for every vote, as well as building the relationships, and coalitions that allowed for this victory.
I'm simply amazed, and pleased that I've had an opportunity to see it all go down.
No, this isn't the end of the road. Now, we must "convince" the Governor to sign all of these bills, and I suspect that will not be an effortless endeavor.
In addition, while these are all necessary peaces toward a safer Illinois, we still have a long way to go, such as creating a more equitable state for all residents, more opportunity in disenfranchised and depressed areas, and how about we try to keep schools open rather than closing them down year after year.
All I can say to you dear reader is that if you've seen all this go down from the sidelines, it's not too late to become a part of history.
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