BATAVIA – U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood is promoting gun legislation now stalled in Congress, hoping to pressure Senate Republicans into action.
Underwood, D-Naperville, convened a gathering at Batavia City Hall on June 23, where she met with local elected officials and gun violence prevention advocacy groups.
The freshman lawmaker, representing the state's 14th Congressional District, was promoting two pieces of legislation that would toughen background checks on gun purchases.
Both bills, approved by the House earlier this year, are stuck because Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to call them for a vote, Underwood said.
“We need to dial up the pressure on Mitch McConnell,” Underwood said. “The solution is not to have a quiet summer. We don’t want to live in a country where kids are afraid to go to school.”
One of the bills would effectively close the so-called “gun-show loophole,” preventing any person who is not a licensed firearm importer, manufacturer or dealer from transferring a firearm to another unlicensed person without a background check. Exceptions would include gifts to family members.
The other bill would extend the waiting period for the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System from the current three days to 10 days for an answer of approval or denial. Under existing law, the transaction may proceed on a default basis if there is no determination from NICS within three business days.
“Background checks are bi-partisan,” Underwood said. “There are no excuses. We can’t wait. Enough is enough.”
Asked what it might take to get McConnell to move the gun legislation, Underwood replied: “The American people speaking out boldly and loudly.”
After the meeting, Underwood stood outside the city building, backed by members of Moms Demand Action and March for Our Lives, along with a survivor of the Feb. 14, 2008 mass shooting at Northern Illinois University, which left five dead and 21 wounded.
“We’re just sick and tired of seeing this happening,” said NIU shooting survivor Patrick Korellis, urging voters to contact their elected officials. “I just want this to end.”
Korellis carries more than memories of the attack.
Now 33, Korellis still has shotgun pellets in his body, one in his neck just below the skull, another in his left arm.
Korellis said he has met with fellow mass shooting survivors, including those from Parkland, Florida and Columbine, Colorado.
“I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” Korellis said. “It has changed my life as far as realizing to never take life for granted.”
Those attending the meeting included several members of the Batavia City Council, along with Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke and Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns.
Batavia 3rd Ward Alderman Dan Chanzit has been outspoken at city council meetings, declaring after each mass shooting that “thoughts and prayers are not enough,” while recognizing that local government cannot bring about changes to gun regulations.
“It’s about time the stakeholders get together to talk about the hold-up” to the gun sales-check legislation, Chanzit said after listening to Underwood. “We don’t have any power locally.”
First Ward Alderman Michael O’Brien agreed. “It’s falling flat in the Senate,” O’Brien said. “It’s a long road. The NRA is pretty powerful.”
State Rep. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, read a letter from a student at Batavia’s J.B. Nelson Elementary School, describing the lockdown drills that students must go through and expressing anger that grown-ups are not dealing with the problem.
Shelly Sandstrom of Naperville was among many of the red-shirted members of Moms Demand Action, a national organization seeking gun control legislation.
Sandstrom said the group supports Underwood’s efforts and seeks “evidence-based” solutions to gun violence.