Austin lawmaker leading task force on firearm public awareness

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Earlier this month, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan established the Illinois House Firearm Public Awareness Task Force at my urging, and I was honored to be named chairman of this bipartisan panel, which will review the issue of gun violence and make recommendations designed to reduce violence.

We’re going to debate this extremely important issue and do everything we can. Too many people have died from gun violence, and I am very concerned with how schools, hospitals and other public areas have been the targets of gun violence.

This hits very close to home. Just a few weeks ago, one of my family members was shot to death on the West Side. He was just 15.

Everyone has their beliefs on gun policies and how we should restrict or not restrict gun rights. This will be an open and honest discussion, where gun rights advocates, who have already been reaching out to me, can speak their truth. Those who believe there are widely supported measures to curb violence and death due to firearms will be able to speak, too.

For example, some gun rights advocates are OK with background checks, but we need to very clearly understand what part of a person’s background is being checked. We need to clearly respect person’s right to privacy, but we also need to keep our communities safe by keeping guns out of the hands of those who really should not have them.

We will also look at bail reform. Some worry that inmates with histories of gun violence are being released back on the streets, though others cite statistics that show those who are being released before trial have an extremely low chance of being charged with a violent offense.

The task force will also study Illinois’ concealed carry firearm law to see if it needs to be modified, as I have heard concerns that gun violence has increased since the law was enacted in 2013. Nationally, we’re hearing Republicans say we have to do something about assault rifles; this is something we’ll seriously consider in Illinois.

The task force will present its findings to all branches of government and offer opinions to municipalities; it will likely draft a comprehensive, statewide omnibus bill on firearms.

Please contact me at with your ideas and suggestions for the task force.

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