Those at a downtown Bloomington vigil for last weekend’s mass shootings in Ohio and Texas vowed to change gun laws or replace lawmakers who don’t do more to prevent daily gun violence.
In the shadow of the McLean County Museum of History, Christina Deutsch urged lawmakers to remember history and that immigrants are what made America great.
“I am an immigrant and I am an American,” she declared. “Prayers are not enough now."
Karen Irvin, a co-leader of McLean County Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America chapter, said she and a group of seven others just returned from a weekend workshop in Washington, D.C., where they sat side-by-side with activists from Ohio and Texas who were devastated by the crushing details of a pair of mass shootings in their home states.
“We cry and we pray and then we ask you to join us because we have a lot of work to do,” Irvin told the crowd.
Linda Foster of the Bloomington-Normal chapter of the NAACP said her organization is ready to work to stop not only mass shootings, but daily violence that takes thousands of lives through suicide by gun, accidents, domestic violence and police and crime-related shootings.
“We have losses in our communities,” she said. “We should fear what a weapon can do and how it can change good to bad and bad to good.”
Then she offered some strategies.
“We can come together as a community of stakeholders, to come up with a framework addressing and preventing violence in all its forms,” she said. “We can support mental health programs and interventions as part of the solution. We can look at soft targets and support law enforcement efforts.”
Then, raising her hands, the NAACP president shouted that her organization would no longer stand on the sidelines: “We are here with you!”
Diane White, a grandmother who said she “is not a public speaker,” co-leads the Moms Demand Action local chapter. She was also in Washington for training when the weekend shootings occured.
“This weekend we saw the sickening consequences of hate as we have seen over and over again in recent months," she said.
She pointed out the gunman who killed 22 people in Ohio was not an Isis fighter or illegal immigrant but an angry white man who had access to weapons that could kill dozens of people within seconds.
Then White took aim at rhetoric she’s been hearing from lawmakers since the massacres.
“This is not about mental health. It is not about video games. Other countries have mental illness. Gaming is all over the world,” she said. “These are NRA talking points.”
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America says it is not against gun ownership but rather it wants sensible gun laws that most Americans support. The organization is championing a federal law, similar to Illinois’ red flag law, that would allow law enforcement and family members to petition a court to temporarily restrict a person’s access to guns when they show warning signs they are a threat to themselves or others.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican who represents parts of Bloomington-Normal, on Wednesday said he is in favor of that kind of federal legislation.
The group wants stronger background checks because, as White put it, "the core of America is unraveling.” And it wants a ban on high capacity magazines like what the shooter in Ohio used, something Repblican Rep. Adam Kinzinger wrote he would support.
Organizers called out Republican state Sens. Bill Brady and Jason Barickman for not supporting legislation to referred to as “Fix the FOID.” The bill vetoed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner required a five-year state license for gun dealers, employee training and in-store video recording. Barickman called the legislation an example of government overreaching into Constitutional rights.
There were some pro gun-rights supporters who stood quietly at the back of the rally. One had a sign reading, “Only a fool would believe that: Someone willing to break laws against assault, battery, rape, theft and murder would somehow follow gun laws.” It went on to say, “And only someone with an agenda against the Constitution and The People [sic] would support that B.S.!”
Yet another sign read, “Responsible gun owners save lives.”
As the battles continue, Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner vowed to take action if federal and state lawmakers fail.
“We do need action. We need results and if other levels of government aren’t going to do it, let’s do it here in our community,” he said to cheers and applause.
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