Gun advocates rally in Springfield
If one of last month’s Northern Illinois University shooting victims had been able to carry a concealed weapon, she could have stopped the assailant, a gun-rights advocate said Tuesday.
Valinda Rowe, a firearms instructor from Enfield, rallied with hundreds of others in support of concealed-carry legislation during Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day at the state Capitol.
The victim Rowe referred to, Julianna Gehant, a 32-year-old veteran from Mendota, was one of five students killed when gunman Steven Kasmierczak opened fire in Cole Hall at NIU on Valentine’s Day.
“From the reports I read, she warned everyone, ‘Get down, get low, get out of here,’ and she was shot and killed,” Rowe said.
Rowe said because Gehant had military and firearms training, the tragedy might have been lessened or prevented if she was able to shoot a gun instead of just being able to yell.
“If she had pulled out a firearm and stopped that man, or at least caused him to duck and run, lives could have been saved until help got there,” she said.
Rowe and others lobbied in favor of House Bill 4544 proposed by Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria. The bill’s fate remained uncertain Tuesday, but Schock said he’s still working to attract support.
HB 4544, also known as the Family and Personal Protection Act, would require individuals to complete a training course in handgun use, safety and marksmanship before they could receive a permit to carry a concealed firearm in the state. The bill also requires an applicant to be at least 21 years old. Anyone convicted of a felony or with a history of mental illness, addiction or habitual alcohol use would be prohibited from obtaining a permit.
The legislation is awaiting consideration in the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee.
During Tuesday’s rally, some gun-rights advocates also spoke out against gun-control proposals that would ban assault weapons, implement ammunition encoding and limit gun purchases to one per month.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, believes anti-gun legislation is not the solution in preventing tragedies like the NIU shooting.
“Many (gun control) proposals simply smother the individual gun owner in red tape,” he said.
Joel Brunsvold, a former state representative and lobbyist for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said he thinks a proposed ban on assault weapons could adversely affect hunters and sports shooters trying to purchase certain types of equipment.
Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, sponsor of House Bill 4357, which calls for a ban on assault weapons, said a clause in the bill would exempt some shooting competitions. “How many shots are you going to need to kill a deer or pheasant? If you can’t shoot your target in a matter of three or four rounds, put the gun down,” he said. “A .50-caliber weapon will completely disintegrate the target.”
Gun-rights advocates said they believe that Illinois needs to follow the lead of the other 48 states that already have some kind of concealed-carry law.