Legislative Public Safety Working Group meets on gun violence, school safety measures

The newly-formed bipartisan bicameral Legislative Public Safety Working Group met late yesterday to begin discussions on a wide range of issues that impact the safety and security of Illinois citizens.

The meeting was the first in what Governor Bruce Rauner and legislators expect to be a series of discussions this session on a comprehensive approach to public safety. Rauner is working to engage with legislators to collaborate on critical issues of gun trafficking, school safety, mental health and crime prevention.

Yesterday’s meeting centered on gun issues and school safety. On the latter, the administration shared recommendations developed by a panel of school administrators, police and fire officials who are members of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. Potential action items include behavioral threat assessments, information sharing among schools, student safety tip lines, active shooter drills, and enhanced fire alarm protocols.

The Working Group agreed to discuss the school recommendations at its next meeting.

In the aftermath of the tragic mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Valentine’s Day, the Governor asked the four legislative leaders of the Illinois General Assembly to appoint members to serve on a legislative public safety working group. House Democrats and House and Senate Republicans attended yesterday. The Senate Democrat caucus has not appointed members.

“Illinois already has some of the toughest gun laws in the U.S.,” Rauner said. “Yet we have ample proof that current law doesn’t do enough to prevent people from obtaining illegal guns and committing acts of gun violence. The purpose of this group is to widen the lens on the problem and deliberate on measures to make Illinoisans in schools, churches – everywhere – safer.”

“Now, more than ever, public safety is on the minds of people across the state and nation,” said State Sen. Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles). “Recent acts of mass violence have really caused us to think about what we can be doing better to keep our children safe. The difficulty with discussing this topic is finding that balance between keeping people safe and protecting our constitutional rights. I am convinced that we can find common ground on solutions that make our state a safer place to live. I look forward to our future meetings and hope that we can advance the conversation—finding a balance that works for all.”

“Public Safety continues to be of high concern for every school and community across Illinois,” said Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago). “Governor Rauner’s bi-partisan work group will be a fair process allowing members of the General Assembly and the Governor to examine best practices and find common ground for meaningful policies to help eliminate preventable violence.”

“I hope to see the working group foster bipartisan cooperation that leads to consensus for the creation of good public safety policy removed from the political wrangling that so often gets in the way,” said Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake). “Several of my colleagues and I have already begun to work together with this mindset, so I am optimistic this group can be the final piece of puzzle to get things done.”

“I’m very honored to be a part of the Public Safety working group,” said Rep. Jonathan Carroll (D-Buffalo Grove). “Our mission is to keep the citizens of Illinois safe. I’m hopeful that the Governor and other members of the legislature can work together on a bi-partisan basis to address issues that affect everyone equally. Yesterday was the first step in this process.”

"This working group gives us a chance to move forward together on solutions that address the full scope of the issues that we face," said Senator Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria). "I'm pleased that we were able to focus on school safety at the first meeting and I look forward to the opportunity to continue working on these ideas and recommendations."

“This was a good, productive meeting that touched on a lot of important issues that are going to be central to our efforts to improve public safety in Illinois,” said state Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City). “I hope our future discussions will continue to move us toward that goal.”

"I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the Senate and the House as part of this Public Safety Working Group. As legislators, we need to develop sound policies and pass the kinds of laws that advance public safety and provide help to those citizens who need it," Senator Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) said. "Our common goal should be the safety and security of our citizens."

The meeting yesterday was chaired by former U.S. Attorney from the Central District of Illinois Rodger A. Heaton, who serves as Governor Rauner’s Chief of staff. Rauner was out of state for the birth of his first grandchild.

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