Illinois Needs a Comprehensive Public Safety Strategy

3/13/2018

Today, Governor Rauner vetoed a gun dealer licensing bill (SB 1657) that created onerous, duplicative bureaucracy that does little to improve public safety. Gun dealers in Illinois are already licensed by the Federal government and another layer of regulation would only serve to jeopardize 2,700 law abiding small businesses in the state.

The veto should not distract us from the larger issue. Illinois is in desperate need of thoughtful, bipartisan public safety solutions to the pervasive problems of crime prevention, school safety and mental health.

The core issue is not about which guns to legally ban or regulate. We have ample proof that weapons-focused legislative responses to violence do little to stop the illegal flow of guns into Illinois or prevent people from committing crimes in our state with illegal guns.

When we focus solely on guns, we become afflicted by a form of tunnel vision that causes us to ignore two universal and bipartisan concerns: guns in the hands of criminals; and guns in the hands of the mentally ill.

These common concerns ought to bring us together for serious conversations about how to secure our schools, combat crime, and make everyone in Illinois safer. Collaboration is our best hope of finding common sense solutions to gun violence.

Positions divide. Interests unite.

With this joint problem-solving spirit in mind, the Governor asked the leaders of the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate to each appoint four members of their caucuses to a Legislative Public Safety Group. The Group would work with our administration to develop legislative proposals to support initiatives we already have already underway:

  • School Safety - The Illinois Terrorism Task Force has convened a working group of officials from schools, police and fire agencies and they are developing strategies to protect against mass shootings. The Public Safety Group ought to be ready to suggest legislative actions to implement their recommendations.

  • Mental Health - The Illinois Terrorism Task Force is also working to learn more about the complex intersection of mental health and gun violence, so parents, teachers, professionals and others can more effectively assess, detect, and report threats. The Public Safety Group will be valuable in ensuring the mental health community is fully engaged and legislation is sensitive to the complexities of dealing with the diagnosis and treatment.

  • Interstate Crime Prevention Network - A wide ranging law enforcement partnership with surrounding states is being explored to clamp down on illegal cross border trafficking and straw purchases, provide enhanced data collection and sharing, and establish protocols for threat detection, surveillance, and criminal apprehension. The Public Safety Group should be in position to evaluate the arrangements as necessary.

  • Repeat Gun Offenders - We must closely examine sentencing and bonding practices that allow repeat offenders to be released rather than incarcerated. Legislative remedies ought to be part of the Group’s effort.

  • Concentrated Crime Force Deployments - The state needs to expand its program of deploying law enforcement resources in high crime areas so that they can mobilize for all-out attacks on the crime industry. The Public Safety Group ought to be ready to endorse funding requirements for a larger state police force.

  • Economic Revitalization - The State’s most violent neighborhoods are also commercial deserts where the only discernible “business” is crime. As expanded force deployments push crime out of these neighborhoods, the state can direct focused business development resources on legitimate enterprise and job creation. The Public Safety Group can accelerate the adoption of incentives to attract needed economic development programs.

We have to work together to develop public safety solutions that truly make a difference. Safety is not a partisan issue. It is an obligation, and we owe it to our citizens to come together to ensure their protection. This is a critical step in that direction.