Lawmaker handles changes in gun legislation

Micha Gachpar, Editor-at-Large

Brad Schneider, representative for the 10th Congressional District of Illinois, was elected to office in 2012 and began his term in 2013, directly following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. After this tragedy, Schneider said he remembers the families and parents of first grade victims speaking passionately about the need for background checks and other forms of gun control. Due to recent shootings, Schneider has found himself confronted by gun control debates once again.

“I think a change is happening this time, and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to pass some of this legislation ensuring background checks and limiting the sales of military style assault weapons,” Schneider said. 

As conversations about the nation’s gun legislation have continued, some activists and policy makers have been pushing for limitations on gun ownership and purchase, such as an age increase to purchase guns and the banning of bump stocks, attachments that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire more quickly.

Tabitha Bonilla, research assistant professor specializing inpolitical behavior andcommunications at Northwestern University, said although states are taking different approaches in handling gun violence, many are eager to pass legislation due to increased pressure from the public.

Illinois recently passed multiple laws that prohibit the sale of assault weapons to anyone under the age of 21, ban the sale of bump stocks and require mental health screenings prior to purchasing a firearm.

“It’s a very politically convenient time to push through certain types of legislation,” said Bonilla. “In particular, the legislation on bump stocks was something that was a relatively easy bill to push through.”

According to Bonilla, passing statewide or national legislation can be difficult because there are many opposing viewpoints regarding gun control. Some people want to lower the risk of mass shootings by requiring background checks and limiting bump stocks, while others believe that installing limitations would not undermine someone who is motivated to cause an event like this. 

“I think [some people] also try to … say that you can’t limit [their] rights,” said Bonilla. “They are granted by the SecondAmendment and any limitations on gun control, including assault weapons or age limits, are speaking [against]the Constitution.”

Schneider said despite conflicting viewpoints, there is common ground between both sides. He does not see a conflict between supporting the Second Amendment and also supporting common sense measures to reduce gun violence. 

“Having universal background checks does not impinge on a Second Amendment right to own a firearm,” said Schneider. “Restricting access to military style assault rifles does not prohibit one’s ability to go hunting or target shooting, or have a gun for self defense. … What I’m hoping for is that we can … bring the sides closer together by saying, ‘How can we, as one nation, work to reduce the scourge of gun violence that’s afflicting our entire nation?’”

Having met with many students and survivors of gun violence, Schneider said he guarantees the voices of teenagers have had a large impact on the legislative decisions being made in Illinois. 

“Students are coming to Washington, [D.C.], marching at home [and] speaking to their legislators,” said Schneider. “I’ve talked to people who’ve been victims of shootings and gun violence in the 10th District as well as the Chicago area, and the louder we can amplify their voices, … the greater the likelihood that hopefully, we can get something done.”

Although legislators and activists are constantly facing conflict regarding this issue, Schneider said he believes legislation is moving in the right direction. 

“There’s no one single cause of gun violence we see in our country, and consequently there isn’t going to be one single solution, nor will it be an easy solution,” said Schneider. “But, I think if we continue as community activists, policy makers and leaders to have the conversation and take steps forward, … we can move towards ending gun violence and saving lives.”