Crowd split on gun laws

Forum brings debate on legislation

Published: 4/15/2008 2:11 AM

Gun control advocates held a forum in Naperville Monday night to lobby for two pieces of state legislation they believe would reduce firearm-related violence.

They were met by a largely pro-gun crowd of roughly 100 people who attacked the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence leadership's positions, arguing the proposals would make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain firearms.

One bill would require background checks for purchases or transfers of all firearms. The other bill would limit the capacity of ammunition clips for weapons to no more than 10 bullets.

The forum was held at Northern Illinois University's satellite campus. Two months ago, a former student killed five people and himself at the DeKalb campus. The event also took place just two days before the one-year anniversary of the deadly Virginia Tech campus shootings.

Garrett Evans survived being shot during the April 16 tragedy in Virginia. He told the crowd he believes tougher laws will keep guns out of the wrong hands.

"I'm sick of making friends with people who have lost people to gun violence," he said.

Carl O'Neill of Skokie said Evans' story was compelling, but the laws the sponsoring group is pursuing wouldn't change what happened to him.

"Mr. Evans said it took 1.5 seconds for the gunman to reload," O'Neill said. "There's no big difference that it takes three seconds to reload twice and fire 30 bullets than if he had a 30-round clip. It only takes one bullet to kill."

Monday's forum often became mired in discord as both sides argued about the validity of statistical evidence of gun violence. A large contingent of concealed weapons supporters argued many of the tragedies would have been avoided if law-abiding citizens were armed.

Panelist Nina Vinik, Legal Community Against Violence's legal director, took the brunt of the crowd's anti-regulation sentiment.

"These are common sense laws that do not threaten the rights of gun owners," she said.

A chorus of boos halted her presentation.

Wheaton resident Ronnie Rohrbach argued that current state laws paved the way for gun violence and blamed the media as well, saying news outlets refuse to report on stories where gun owners thwart criminals.

"The shooters had privacy laws protecting the fact that they were nuts," she said. "The problem is they have rap music and video games where they get to practice."

Naperville resident John Bagley said he wasn't surprised that more people who support tighter restrictions on firearms didn't attend the forum. He favors the proposed state laws.

"The people who are here tonight are the ones who think they are having their rights taken away and believe they are going to lose something," he said. "That will always bring someone out, but I wish there were more people here supporting this group."