U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, announced Wednesday he will form the Southern Illinois Gun Task Force in the wake of President Barack Obama's plans to implement new restrictions on gun ownership.
Enyart plans to convene stakeholders across Illinois' 12th district to address protecting gun owners and Second Amendment rights while focusing on mental health concerns and reducing gun violence, according to a written statement he released.
"We have heard from the President, and it's time to hear from Southern Illinois because it is essential that our Southern Illinois values are protected," Enyart said in the statement.
Enyart called the task force "an important step to ensure we safeguard our Second Amendment rights, address barriers to mental health care, punish offenders who lie on background checks, and work responsibly to reduce gun violence."
Enyart called it "disappointing" that Obama chose to implement the new federal restrictions through executive order.
Enyart said he wished "to draw on the depth of experience and diversity in Illinois' 12th District and start a serious dialogue."
During a late-morning press conference, Obama proposed background checks on firearm sales and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The measures are part of a package of steps to reduce gun violence in the wake of the Dec. 14 school massacre that claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Conn. A 20-year-man who lived nearby used a military-style assault rifle to kill the the children and educators before taking his own life.
Obama signed 23 executive actions that don't require congressional approval. The measures would strengthen background checks and promote safety programs in schools.
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2533.