News Local/State

Illinois Lawmakers Divide Along Party Lines On President’s Gun Control Initiatives

A Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol

A Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol. Ken Lunde/Wikipedia

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) says president Barack Obama’s executive actions to expand background checks on gun sales has popular support, and was something he and 23 other senators had asked the president to do back in November. But Illinois Republicans say the actions violate the 2nd Amendment and will not survive a court challenge.

In a news release, Durbin says the 24 lawmakers made their request for executive action, “after repeated attempts to pass meaningful legislation were blocked in Congress.”

“The President’s plan will help strengthen the gun background check system, promote better enforcement of the gun laws on the books, enhance efforts to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental instability, and advance the use of ‘smart gun’ technology that will reduce criminal gun trafficking and accidental shootings.”

Republicans feel differently.

US Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) calls the president’s actions “purely political,” and predicts they will not hold up in court.

“If the executive actions President Obama is proposing are constitutional and will save lives, why has he wanted until the final year of his presidency to act?” asked Shimkus in a news release. “It’s simple: Because they are not legal and they will not work.”

In particular, Shimkus is critical of the president’s proposal to expand background checks to cover more firearms by requiring more people to register as federally licensed gun dealers. 

“And how he’s trying to redefine the definition of an official dealer, versus a hobbyist, a collector, or individual contractions between two citizens,” Shimkus told Illinois Public Media.

Shimkus, who notes his lifetime “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, says he opposes anything that would infringe on the right of individual citizens to buy and sell legal firearms.

US Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) also criticized the president’s executive actions as showing a “blatant disregard for our nation’s Constitution.”

Davis and Shimkus advocate curbing gun violence by increasing treatment for the mentally ill. Both are co-sponsors of bipartisan mental health legislation sponsored in the House by Pennsylvania Republican Tim Murphy. That bill, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) does not directly address issues of gun violence.

Murphy’s legislation is currently with the House Education Committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Todd Rokita (R-Indianapolis).

Rokita also opposes the president’s proposed executive actions on gun control, stating in a news release that Pres. Obama “knows these proposals do not have the support of Congress, the American people or our Constitution.”