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GUEST COLUMN: Making public safety the priority

Jerry Long
Jerry Long

On Feb. 13, 2009, in the 111th Congress, Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-Newport News, proposed House Resolution 1064, the Youth PROMISE Act, which was eventually signed into law by President Obama.

This act’s intent was to prevent and intervene against criminal delinquency and youth gang activity and award states and districts with grant monies if proven they have successfully implemented it into troubled areas. The problem with such legislation is that states, municipalities and districts can and will manipulate numbers and effectiveness in order to receive grant monies from the federal government.

On Feb. 14, 2018, a horrible shooting took place at the Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla,, taking 17 innocent lives.

According to reports, the Broward County Sheriff’s office received multiple tips in 2016 and 2017 about Cruz's threats to carry out a school shooting. The FBI learned a YouTube user with the username "nikolas cruz" wrote about becoming a school shooter in September 2017. Also, the police noted he had "a pattern of disciplinary issues and unnerving behavior."

The problem with all of this is that a well-intentioned but ineffective law was abused by not only the reporting (or lack thereof) from the school district but the local authorities as well. It was a tragic failure of government agencies from the bottom on up.

Now, without the full and complete investigation of the shooting, certain legislators want to use a tragic incident like this to take the opportunity to pass laws that do nothing to address the underlying problem. The real issue here is mental illness and domestic violence. Personal responsibility seems to have gone out the window.

After having John Thompson, of the Illinois State Police, and Richard Pierson, of the Illinois State Rifle Association, in my office in Springfield, we came up with the right solution to keep guns out of the hands of those who mean to do harm to our communities. We will be adding an amendment to my bill, HB 4851, to allow government agencies to communicate to the state police when an individual with a FOID card has been flagged for having a mental illness or a case of domestic violence. This will temporarily suspend their FOID card until the matter has been fully investigated. This will allow police an opportunity to address these matters before things turn tragic.

We need to enforce the laws that are in the books and take the time to craft meaningful legislation that will deal with the correct issue at hand instead of infringing upon the rights of Americans. As a father of four children and a grandfather to nine, I understand how troubling it is to worry about their safety at school. That’s why we need to provide our communities with a responsible solution and address mental health and domestic violence, the root causes of these tragedies plaguing America.

  • STATE REP. JERRY LONG, a Republican, lives in Streator.

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