Representatives, activists push for gun control on NIU, Parkland school shooting anniversaries

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Bells tolled Monday afternoon for the victims of killed at Northern Illinois University on Valentine's Day 2008, when a member of campus gunned down five people and injured 17 more.

Ten years later, horror struck a high school in Parkland, Florida, when a student murdered 17 people. Monday, a father of one of the victims, was arrested when he hung a banner from a crane in Washington, D.C., demanding new gun safety laws.

"On any measure, we are not nearly doing enough to act like we actually don't want Americans to get shot," said U.S. Rep. Sean Casten.

SEE ALSO | NIU marks 13 years since deadly school shooting that killed 5

His colleague, U.S. Rep. Robyn Kelly, echoed those concerns.

"We cannot allow ourselves to become desensitized to this kind of violence," said Kelly. "It doesn't have to be this way."

And three years ago Tuesday, workplace violence led to the death of five people, plus the shooter, at the Henry Pratt installation in Aurora.

"We recognize there's a real industry and there is a real group who profit off of this pain and tragedy," said Greg Jackson, executive director of the Community Access Justice Fund.

RELATED | Parkland anniversary: 4 years later, gun control groups remember 17 killed, press Biden to do more

The anniversaries have been arriving in their grimness as lawmakers and gun control advocates gathered Monday via Zoom, due to the pandemic, to back federal legislation to combat interstate gun sales.

"This epidemic of gun violence is a uniquely American challenge... We do not see this in any other industrialized country," said Arne Duncan of Chicago Cred. "We know what works. This is not putting a man on the moon."

Chicago saw 3561 shooting incidents and 797 gun related homicides last year. That uptick mirrored national trends. Since Parkland four years ago, gun control advocates said 150,000 lives have been lost to gun violence nationwide.

U.S. Reps. Casten and Kelly have bills in front of Congress that would empower federal authorities to crack down. President Joe Biden noted the anniversaries in a statement Monday.

"Congress must do much more, beginning with requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers," Biden said.

SEE ALSO | Aurora police release surveillance video of Henry Pratt mass shooting

Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson made his own statement in response.

"There are adequate laws to police interstate gun trafficking," Pearson said. "The problem is those laws are not enforced and suspects are not fully prosecuted when they break those laws."

Arne Duncan, who formerly served as United States Secretary of Education and Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools, said legislation against gun violence is not radical.

"This is not about taking anybody's guns," Duncan said. "Just know where your gun is. Take care of your gun. And if it disappears, let some folks know. It actually breaks my heart that that somehow, this is seen as radical. That is not the case."
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