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Moms Group, Illinois State Rifle Association Respond To Renewed Push For Gun Control

Karen Irvin from the McLean County chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America speaks at a 2019 event.

Two recent mass shootings have spurred President Joe Biden and his administration to push for Senate passage of two House-approved gun control measures.

Biden said this week that assault weapons and high-capacity magazines should once again be banned and that loopholes in background checks should be closed.

Illinois State Rifle Association Response

Illinois State Rifle Association President Richard Pearson of Chatsworth said there is a problem with defining what assault weapons are, and he doesn’t think laws are going to stop people like alleged shooters Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa (Colorado) or Robert Aaron Long (Atlanta).

“Civilians in Illinois are not allowed assault weapons and neither one of those guys (Alissa and Long) actually had one, either. When they talk about assault weapons, it's just that they look like one, but they aren't one,” said Pearson. “They can't do that and they can't be modified to become a fully automatic rifle, either. There's a problem with them not wanting to really define what they are because that would defeat their idea.”

Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994. It prohibited the manufacture or sale for civilian use of certain semi-automatic weapons. The act also banned magazines that could accommodate 10 rounds or more. That ban expired in 2004.

Pearson said it was ineffective.

“It turned out that they actually did absolutely nothing to stop crime,” said Pearson. “The criminals still wind up with these things and law-abiding citizens don't. The other thing is that most of these firearms like 0.004% are the only ones that caused the crime and they're always in the hands of a prohibited person.”

Pearson said the weapon used in Boulder wasn’t fully automatic and therefore not an assault weapon. The gun used in the shooting appears to be a Ruger AR-556 pistol, a type of AR-15, the powerful military-style rifle that has been used in many other mass shootings.

“The only thing that a person can do (during a violent assault) is defend themselves, and there's no other better way to do that than with an AR-15, there's no better way to do it. The criminal isn't going to turn his in,” said Pearson.

‘Moms Demand Action’ Responds

On the same day as the Boulder shooting where 10 people died, Normal had a shooting on Orlando Avenue.

The McLean County chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is pleased to see the Biden administration focused on major gun legislation at the national level. Co-leader Karen Irvin said it’s been more than 25 years since legislation has been passed. 

“We can’t accept it as another fact of life and we won’t accept it. We feel like the ball is in the Senate’s court right now to do something,” said Irvin. “Everybody in our group and in the nation, our hearts are with everybody impacted by the senseless shootings.”

Irvin said there had been a reduction in mass shooting since COVID-19 started, but there has been increased gun violence and gun sales.

Irvin said Moms Demand Action is optimistic because tackling gun violence aligns with other Biden administration priorities, including public health and racial equity.

“Any time that we can have a strong gun-sense advocate like Joe Biden and also Kamala Harris in the White House, working on this issue, we're very pleased. We've been working on it with all the volunteers in Moms Demand Action nationally, at the state level and even here locally. We're thrilled that the Senate might take some action,” said Irvin.

Moms Demand Action has about 75 active members in McLean County and over 300 Facebook supporters.

“We know that 93% of all Americans support background checks, and that includes 89% of Republicans and 87% of gun owners,” said Irvin. “So we know that our group is really strong right now, and we are here to work, to push this legislation through its time," said Irvin. "We know that mass shootings like in Boulder and in Atlanta get the media attention and they get the phone calls when people want to know what we think about this, but I have to say that we understand that gun violence is a daily occurrence in our community as well.”

Moms Demand Action formed locally in 2018, when a record number of fatal shootings hit Bloomington-Normal. Gun violence continued in 2019.

“We are well aware that every time that happens, not only are people killed, but we know that there are now survivor families that deal with this gun violence for the rest of their lives,” said Irvin. “We know one thing that has been happening in our community is the police and local law enforcement have done a fabulous job on solving the homicides.”

Irvin said the solving of these crimes actually reduces the frequency of gun violence as well as actual legislation.

Irvin said gun violence is a public health crisis, noting Moms Demand Action has gun owners in its membership. Irvin said the group’s goal is gun safety.

“It’s insane to keep hearing the opponents of gun-sense legislation to keep saying now is not the time to act, now is the time for thoughts and prayers,” said Irvin. “We don’t believe that; the time to act is now, it is insane to think that it is not time to do this.” 

Irvin said, generally, Moms Demand Action is against unnecessary assault weapons.

“One of the things that we know is that gun owners, for the most part, are responsible. But when you're talking about assault rifles that are military grade, we don't see the reason for individuals to own them,” said Irvin. “So I applaud Biden if he's about to introduce new legislation for that, too.”

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