March 19, 2024

US Rep. Sean Casten: Gun control legislation is effective. Why haven't we done more?


During my six years in Congress, I have received countless messages from parents and teachers concerned for their children and students’ lives in the classroom, at church, in the mall and at parades. They are terrified of what has become a reality for parents in Uvalde, Texas; Parkland, Florida; Highland Park; and countless other cities and towns across America.

I know my colleagues across the aisle receive these letters, too. But every time I see them walk into the Capitol proudly wearing an AR-15 lapel pin, I can’t help but wonder if they bother to read those letters.

The Chicago Tribune story “Pair of mass shootings in suburbs offers grim reminder: Illinois and Chicago routinely rank among nation’s worst for such crimes,” published in late January, was frustrating and sad to read. But to anyone who has worked to curb gun violence, it wasn’t surprising.

Since the start of the year, there have been 80 mass shootings and more than 3,300 deaths due to gun violence nationwide, according to the Gun Violence Archive. We don’t need any more thoughts and prayers from elected leaders. We shouldn’t have any more moments of silence or vigils. We need action.

We can start by tackling the number of illegal guns circulating in Illinois — many of which come from out of state. We need to provide law enforcement with the tools to crack down on gun trafficking and hold irresponsible gun dealers accountable. This is particularly true in our state, where guns trafficked from across state lines make up 50% of the total number of illegally possessed guns used in a crime.

To stop the flow of illegal guns, Congress must pass into law the Gun Trafficker Detection Act, a bill I introduced last year with U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, which would require gun owners to report within 48 hours if their gun is lost or stolen. This bill is designed to prevent traffickers from routinely selling stolen guns, one major source of firearms used in crimes.

We know gun control measures work. Thirty years ago, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was enacted to create the requirement for background checks on all handgun purchases from federally licensed firearm dealers. Since its enactment in 1994, approximately 4 million illegal gun transactions have been prevented thanks to Brady.

If you take into account the success of the Brady measure and the drastic increase in assault-style weapons following the end of the assault weapons ban, it is clear that gun control legislation is effective and we need to enact more of it.

We also know that the Protect Illinois Communities Act passed by the Illinois General Assembly is working. There were 10% fewer mass shootings in Illinois between 2022 and 2023. That is important progress — but not enough. Without a national ban on assault-style weapons and a system in place to prevent gun trafficking, we will continue to see gun violence affect our state.

Every day we don’t make progress, I get more messages. One student wrote to tell me, “We are tired. We are exhausted. We are sick of going to class and any public area and forming an escape route.” Another constituent asked: “How many children and teachers are going to have to be killed by guns for our government to take action?”

The honest answer is: I don’t know. Because after every mass shooting that devastates America, I never see fewer of those AR-15 pins on the House floor.

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten represents Illinois’ 6th Congressional District.

By:  Rep. Sean Casten
Source: Chicago Tribune