Wheeler to Take Part in Special Working Group on Public Safety

Today, the Legislative Public Safety Group will hold its first meeting. In response to recent acts of mass violence around the country, Governor Bruce Rauner called for the creation of this group to work with his administration. This working group will work with the administration to develop bipartisan legislative proposals to address several factors causing incidents of mass violence. State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake), who has already been working on several bipartisan public safety initiatives, will play a key role in the work of this new group.

“The incidents of mass violence which have happened in our society demonstrate that we are dealing with an issue bigger than just guns falling into the hands of bad people,” said Wheeler. “We need to address what is leading people this type of behavior by considering a multitude of factors. If we can more effectively identify those at risk, it will allow us to create better measures to protect our schools and places of work, help those suffering with mental illness and ensure law enforcement is better equipped to prevent something from happening in the future. Several of my colleagues and I have already begun to work together with this mindset, so I hope this public safety group can be the final piece of puzzle to get things done.”

The Governor has set the following initiatives for the Legislative Public Safety Group: 
  • School Safety – The Illinois Terrorism Task Force has convened a working group of officials from schools, police and fire agencies and they are developing strategies to protect against mass shootings. The Public Safety Group ought to be ready to suggest legislative actions to implement their recommendations. 
  • Mental Health – The Illinois Terrorism Task Force is also working to learn more about the complex intersection of mental health and gun violence, so parents, teachers, professionals and others can more effectively assess, detect, and report threats. The Public Safety Group will be valuable in ensuring the mental health community is fully engaged and legislation is sensitive to the complexities of dealing with diagnosis and treatment. 
  • Interstate Crime Prevention Network – A wide ranging law enforcement partnership with surrounding states is being explored to clamp down on illegal cross border trafficking and straw purchases, provide enhanced data collection and sharing, and establish protocols for threat detection, surveillance, and criminal apprehension. The Group should be in position to evaluate the arrangements as necessary. 
  • Repeat Gun Offenders – We must closely examine sentencing and bonding practices that allow repeat offenders to be released rather than incarcerated. Legislative remedies ought to be part of the Public Safety Group’s effort. 
  • Concentrated Crime Force Deployments – The state needs to expand its program of deploying law enforcement resources in high crime areas so that they can mobilize for all-out attacks on the crime industry. The Public Safety Group ought to be ready to endorse funding requirements for a larger force of state police officers. 
  • Economic Revitalization – The state’s most violent neighborhoods are also commercial deserts where the only discernible “business” is crime. As expanded force deployments push crime out of these neighborhoods, the state can direct focused business development resources on legitimate enterprise and job creation. The Group can accelerate the adoption of incentives to attract needed economic development programs. 
Rep. Wheeler has already been working in a bipartisan manner on several pieces of legislation and said she hopes the Legislative Public Safety Group will consider these proposals as part of its recommendations: 
  • SB3411 & HB5829 – These bills allow a school, place of worship or workplace to petition the court for protection if a person poses a clear danger. 
  • HB 4218 & HB 4855 – The Illinois FOID Card Act requires hospitals to report mental health admissions to DHS, who in turn provide the information to the State Police. Current information from DHS suggestion some hospitals are failing to report admissions, and there is currently little recourse in the law to compel compliance with the reporting requirement. These pieces of legislation update the reporting requirement to ensure compliance and prevent firearm access for those considered a danger to themselves or others. 
  • HB 4904 – This legislation updates the rules for sales at licensed gun shops and provides for video surveillance and a notification system to assist law enforcement in the case of a break-in. 
  • HB 5475 – This legislation increases the penalties for unlawful possession of a machine gun.

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