In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the gun control debate is back at the forefront. And federal legislators may be casting votes on the issue.
Where do metro-east congressmen, and those trying to unseat them, stand on how to prevent future mass shootings?
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro
Bost represents the Illinois' 12th Congressional District.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"I’m encouraged by the president moving forward to make sure the background checks are done, and done correctly. We’ve worked on making sure the communications between law enforcement, whether federal, state, local, communicate back and forth in situations like this to make sure that’s done," Bost said. "The thing we need to do, we make our schools safe from fire, we need to make our schools safe from gunfire. I actually had a bill before (Parkland) occurred, and that is our (Secure our Schools) Act, and it has panic buttons specifically in each classroom... We need to make sure we make the investment in our local schools to secure them. Now, what that is, we’ll be going over in the next few weeks and I’ll think you’ll see some things being done."
Should the semiautomatic assault weapons ban, which was in place from 1994-2004, come back?
"No, because even when it was in, it wasn’t effective… The assault weapon ban unfortunately was written by people who didn’t understand where to draw the line on what is an assault weapon and what isn’t an assault weapon," Bost said. "I used, when I was a kid growing up, it was a squirrel hunting rifle that I had, fell under the assault weapons ban, because of the type of clip that it had, and it was a Ruger 10/22 rifle. The problem we run into when we start down that path, is one, it doesn’t prove that it changes things. What we need to do is deal with mental health, what we need to do is deal with the safety in our schools, and making sure to enforce what laws we have, because with each one of these shootings have occurred, whether it’s the one out in D.C. of my own colleagues, whether it was Vegas, or these shootings that are occurring in schools with these children that are suffering from mental illness, each one of them has given red flags, and the authorities, either local, state or federal, are not reacting with the existing laws they have, and they need to."
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville
Shimkus represents Illinois' 15th Congressional District.
"We live in a very changed society, a very violent society, a society that doesn’t respect life anymore. ... We have law enforcement at basketball games, football games, concerts, but maybe we don’t protect our schools as much as we should," Shimkus said. "I’m not one who ascribes that all these shootings are mental health issues. I think the mental health profession’s concern is that you label everyone who is 'some status of mentally ill as a threat,’ well they’re not. I’m a Christian by faith, there’s sin in the world, there’s evil in the world, and there’s evil intent. That doesn’t mean they’re mentally deranged. They’re just evil, bad people. Those folks have to be identified, and the public is getting better at raising those issues, and if we haven’t connected the dots, that’s a law enforcement issue also."
Should there be a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons?
"I think we can, but I think most major shootings and events are not with the assault weapon-type of issues. The mass shootings there are some concerns. I think this bump stock issue on the automatic debate — automatic weapons are not allowed, bump stocks help overcome that. That will be part of a package of what can we do federally. The president has already addressed the ATF to use their power to restrict that."
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville
Davis represents Illinois' 13th Congressional District.
“As we continue to learn more details, it’s clear there were multiple breakdowns in the system that led to this tragedy, and changes must be made by our schools, by law enforcement, and by our government to better identify potential threats and stop them from being carried out," Davis said. "We have to strengthen security within our schools, help our communities develop better threat assessment systems to identify disturbed individuals and intervene before a violent act occurs, increase access to mental health treatment, and do more to prevent mentally disturbed individuals from getting weapons. We’ve made some progress in addressing these issues, but more must be done. I hope state and federal lawmakers of both parties, members of law enforcement, and school administrators can come together to discuss ways to keep our kids safe.”
St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly
Kelly is a Democrat who is running for Congress in the 12th District.
"I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I have my FOID card right next to my state’s attorney badge. But I’m also part of the law enforcement team, and public safety cannot be a partisan issue. We have to make decisions based on evidence, and I think the discussions we’re having about tightening up our very fractured and leaky background check system is a place where we can make a significant amount of progress," Kelly said. "We definitely have to tackle the issue of mental health. We can’t stigmatize everyone with mental health (issues) and assume they are dangerous, but we have to develop sharper systems where we see overlap of firearms and mental health issues that could potentially pose a risk to public safety. And I think those are the areas where we could make tremendous amount of progress and that’s something I’ve done as a prosecutor."
He added: "One of the first things I did when I came in as state’s attorney, we noticed that we had folks who were defendants who had a gun but they had something in their background that indicated they shouldn’t have a firearm in the first place, but they were allowed to get a weapon. We went through hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of files in cases and found examples of people who had been adjudicated guilty, but mentally ill or unfit, or not guilty by reason of insanity, or they had some type of probate case where there was a question of their mental capacity. But because the law didn’t require those be reported to the State Police, there was no documentation of that in the computer system that would have kept them from getting a FOID card. So we went through and sent hundreds of orders in and got those folks properly documented in the background check system, but subsequently we were able to work together with Democrat and Republican state's attorneys and circuit clerks to change the law so that it’s automatically reported rather than requiring some heavy paperwork process. Those are the types of incremental steps we can take that will add up to having a tremendous impact on improving our public safety."
Should the semiautomatic weapons ban come back?
"If we limit this conversation to talking about just certain types of weapons, then I think we’ll wind up getting nothing done. I would rather focus on making sure we have people who are not allowed to have firearms, that we have them better identified so they don’t get any type of firearm, however you want to describe that firearm."
Bequette is a Democrat who is running for Congress in the 12th District.
"A federal ban on semiautomatic assault weapons without comprehensive common-sense gun legislation would not be effective," Bequette said. "We need a federally enforced program that requires the following:
- Enhanced background checks that include mental health history or criminal history with a concentration on past domestic abuse.
- An end to unregulated third-party purchasing or gifting of firearms.
- A nationwide license and registration program.
- Comprehensive and mandatory training programs prior to being afforded the right to purchase or own a firearm.
- Safe storage requirements for all gun owners and stricter laws criminalizing unsafe storage and allowing access to firearms by minors.
- Lastly, an end to the sale of semiautomatic weapons and illegalization of expanded magazines for all firearms."
Nelson is a Republican who is running for Congress in the 12th District.
Nelson said he would eliminate gun-free zones that don't have adequate security, and said there should be at least one member of a local or regional law enforcement agency for every 200 unarmed civilians with a minimum of two officers per facility.
"This is the best way to instantly deter further violence in schools while preserving our Second Amendment rights," Nelson said.
Auxier is a Green who is running for Congress in the 12th District.
"Our national conversation on gun violence is not a real conversation. It hasn't been for 50 years. It is dominated by the loudest but least reasonable voices and funded by corporations and interest groups. Sensible people could have a sensible discussion if they were allowed to do so," Auxier said. "The Second Amendment is not the right setting or background for the conversation we need to have. If we really care about the security of a free people, we will set the Second Amendment to the side for once, and our fears of one another's intentions, and discuss guns like sensible people.
He added: "To my many hunter friends: No one is advocating taking your hunting rifle. But nobody wants any more children, or concert goers, or police officers mowed down by assault weapons. Is that fair? We must be open to reasonable discussion, not to shouting and exaggeration and grandstanding. I am trying to think of one reasonable, sensible defense of assault rifles that doesn't boil down to fear — and fear of the wrong people.
Betsy Dirksen Londrigan
Londrigan is a Democrat who is running for Congress in the the 13th District.
"Universal background checks, keeping guns out of the hands of violent offenders, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill are solid first steps," Londrigan said. "Stopping sales of military assault weapons and banning high-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition is a key component to preventing massacres. Allowing the Center for Disease Control to study gun violence as the public health issue it is — and identify both root causes and actionable steps is critical to moving forward together."
She added: "I have pledged not to ever take money from the NRA or any other gun lobby whose true intent is to boost gun sales at the expense of the safety of our neighborhoods."
Jones is a Democrat who is running for Congress in the 13th District.
Ebel is a Democrat who is running for Congress in the 13th District.
"The federal government should never have repealed the assault weapons ban in the first place and should reinstate it now. I would also like to see a generous federal and state buy-back program for all assault-style weapons," Ebel said. "There are millions in circulation and it is a big task to reduce that number, but Americans shouldn't be daunted by the scale of a challenge, especially when the safety of our children and our communities hangs in the balance.
"I'll repeat what I have been saying since September and what my primary opponents have recently come to see: We need a national gun registry (like we register cars), mandatory background checks on all firearms and ammunition, the robust enforcement of laws that keep guns out of the hands of those with a history of domestic abuse, animal abuse, and mental illness, and real campaign finance reform to get the NRA's filthy money out of our politics," Ebel added.
Gill is a Democrat who is running for Congress in the 13th District.
"As an emergency room doctor, I have a true, heartfelt passion when it comes to this issue, because I have had to bear witness all too often to the devastating impact of Congress' failure to act with needed gun control reforms. And as the former assistant director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, it's very clear to me that gun violence is an ever-growing public health crisis in this country," Gill said. "I never have and never will take a penny from the NRA, and I look forward to receiving a grade of "F" from that organization every year in office. I support the re-implementation of the assault weapons ban that served this country so well from 1994 until 2004."
He added: "I stand against concealed-carry reciprocity. I support mandatory background checks for every gun purchase, with no exceptions and no loopholes. I support a national registry of gun owners. I support the banning of bump stocks and I support reducing the number of allowable rounds per magazine to ten or less. We must act, and we must act immediately — each day that we fail to act, nearly 100 Americans are killed with guns."
Sides is a Democrat who is running for Congress in the 13th District.
"We need to ... adopt the same gun regulations of Europe where mass shootings hardly ever occur. I would propose gun training, licensing — ensuring an an end to the private sales of guns," Sides said. "According to the NRA indoctrination, there is a war on guns. That is why some 'one issue' voters, vote Republican if they hear the words 'background check' because they are programmed to think their guns will be taken from them. These people need to consider, weapons manufacturers make a lot of money on gun sales and the NRA consistently lobbies Congress and even hires psychologists to put out propaganda and rhetoric and to weaken gun laws. Yet public officials still need to address the crisis in our country right now.
She added: "The U.S. needs to work to pass a strong federal CAP laws. There is a link between psychotropic drugs and mass shootings, suicides, and violence. When big pharma is allowed to dump an unlimited amount of money into political campaigns, in return, they get laws passed, like the Prescription Drug User Fee Act. This law allows the FDA to collect a $100,000 fee to ensure drugs get on the market faster, before they are properly tested. The U.S. has five times the gun deaths of the most armed country in Europe, yet, Donald Trump signed a bill that eased up on allowing mentally ill to obtain guns and Sen. Grassley was the lead sponsor of a bill that kept people who had been adjudicated as seriously mentally ill from being added to the FBI files."
Gaither is a Democrat running for Congress in the 15th District.
"We should be focused on both short term and long term measures. Increasing funding for buyback programs. Strengthening mandated reporting laws with increased oversight. Stopping rifle and assault style purchases by teenagers would be a start," Gaither said. "Bump stocks and extended magazines have flooded into the market and can also be constructed by dedicated individuals. If the people rise up and demand these become illegal, let’s do it. All of it has to be from the ground up, not from politicians who can’t seem to get out of their own way."
He added: "Long term, we should focus on fully funding schools. Increase visibility and resources for counseling programs in schools. Increase access to mental health treatment and overall healthcare across rural America. Dramatically decreasing the cost of health care would also help families."
Spoerer is a Democrat running for Congress in the 15th District.
In a Facebook post, Spoerer offered suggestions for preventing shootings, filling holes in the National Instant Check Background database by requiring states to report in timely fashion the names of people found to be drug abusers, psychiatrically disturbed or otherwise disqualified as gun purchasers according to federal law. Spoerer said there should be increased penalties for crimes committed with guns, requiring $1 million liability policies to maintain ownership, and banning bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and military-grade ammunition.
"I want to be clear to the citizens of my district, I am for concealed-carry and have no intent taking that away. That said, common-sense gun laws must be looked at now. Common-sense guns laws does not mean repeal of the Second Amendment," Spoerer said.