Horrified as they were by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., it hasn’t changed the stance of state Reps. Mike Tryon and Jack Franks when it comes to gun rights.
Just days after a federal appeals court found Illinois’ concealed-carry ban unconstitutional, the school shooting left 20 young children and six educators dead.
While Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have been outspoken in their dislike of the court’s decision, Tryon and Franks are on the side of gun-rights advocates.
“What you had was a really sick young man who had problems, and his mother recently said she was losing control,” Tryon said.
He said he won’t put the blame on guns for causing killer Adam Lanza’s emotional or psychological issues, because they didn’t. “You can’t have a heart and not ache for the victims of gun violence,” said Tryon, R-Crystal Lake. “But it’s the act of violence that’s the problem.”
There needs to be a culture shift and a public health campaign that treats gun violence as a disease, he said.
“If you take away guns from the nonviolent people, then only the violent people have them,” he said. “Taking away gun rights of law-abiding citizens isn’t the solution.”
When it comes to assault weapons, Franks said he favors more restrictions.
Franks, who said he owns rifles and shotguns, said owning assault weapons should be curbed. “I don’t think a sportsman needs an AK-47 to hunt Bambi,” he said. “It’s not necessary.”
With lawmakers given six months to pass a new concealed-carry law, Tryon said he was confident it can be done, likely by resurrecting an existing bill.
“I like to be an optimist,” he said. “We almost had it worked out about a year ago on a concealed-carry bill which I thought was reasonable. We don’t have to start all over, we can pick up where we left off.”
Illinois was the last state with a concealed-carry ban, but therefore it has every other state to look to for guidance.
“Some people say New York is too restrictive, some people say Utah is the best,” Franks said.
Regardless, it’s clear that Illinois’ gun laws aren’t working, he said. “The bad guys are the ones with the guns. We need to try something else. Murder rates have increased throughout our state, but predominantly in Chicago. That policy has proved to be flawed.”
Just to the north, Wisconsin has a young law for carrying concealed weapons. It took effect Nov. 1, 2011.
There, applicants for a concealed-carry weapon license must be at least 21 years old, a Wisconsin resident and have proof of a firearms training. They also cannot be prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law, nor ordered as a condition of bail in a criminal case from possessing a dangerous weapon.
In Illinois, the bill that failed had similar requirements, including the age requirement of 21. Training requirements would be developed by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board and included classroom instruction, as well as live firing exercises.
Under that bill, government meetings and sporting stadiums or arenas would be off-limits, as would carrying concealed while under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol.
Franks said he also wants to protect the rights of property owners and whether they want to allow guns on their property.
“I’ve been in Texas and gone to pizza places where there were no guns allowed,” he said. “You can’t force someplace to say you’re allowed to bring your gun.”
The key, Tryon said, is finding a balance between not infringing on rights and the need for regulation.
“I think as long as there’s a nexus between the right to carry and licensing,” Tryon said. “We have to put in some regulations, but we can’t make the regulations so tough that it’s impossible for anyone to get [a license].”