By Nova Safo, CNN
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Chicago, Illinois (CNN) – Just days before the Newtown shooting, a federal appeals court struck down the last remaining state-wide ban on carrying concealed weapons. The ban in Illinois violated a 2008 Supreme Court decision, the federal appeals court said, which affirmed the right to have a gun for self defense.
In striking down the law, the appeals court ordered lawmakers to rewrite law to allow for concealed carry. Barbara Flynn Currie, the Democratic majority leader in the Illinois State House, is feeling the pressure to find a solution fast.
[1:00] “At the end of six moths, if there’s nothing there, I don’t know how you interpret this opinion than to say that people then don’t have to get permits, don’t have to worry about concealing, they can just wander.”
This is not the conversation Currie wants to be having after Newtown.
In fact, lawmakers in Illinois have been talking about tougher gun control – everything from requiring reporting of lost guns to a ban on assault weapons. That has put gun ownership proponents in the state on the defensive, including Richard Pearson, the executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. While Pearson does not want to see tougher laws, he does see room for change.
[2:08] “We need to make sure that the people who have bad backgrounds and mental health issues, don’t get firearms. We’re working toward that. And I think that’s where the discussion needs to go. And I think we need to look at placing guards in schools. To think that because it’s a gun-free zone, that somebody is going to do anything bad there, is just nuts.”
Pearson believes the problems with gun violence have to do with the lack of proper mental health resources, as well as a culture of violence. But David Hemenway, one of the leading researchers of gun violence, says culture has little to do with it. Hemenway is the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and author of the book, “Private Guns Public Health.” He has compared the U.S. to other countries with fewer shooting deaths, and found access to guns to be the only major difference.
[3:53] “It doesn’t look like our children are more aggressive or more depressed. It doesn’t look like there’s more bullying in our schools. It doesn’t look like for adults there’s more actual crime or actual violence, except when it deals with guns. And what guns have done is make our crime and violence much more lethal than it needs to be.”
While waiting for a national solution, Illinois state legislators will soon find out whether the Newtown tragedy has changed the political winds here. When they reconvene in January, State House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie said she is hoping for an assault weapons ban.
[6:04] “I’m hopeful that people who are kind of rethinking their positions because of the senselessness and the horror of this tragedy, perhaps they will come around to thinking that these items which were meant to be military weapons do not in fact belong in the hands of ordinary citizens. They’re no good for shooting dear.”