At its Committee of the Whole meeting on Friday, the Lake County Board examined safe gun storage procedures, gun mortality data, and potential legislative remedies to prevent accidental gun fatalities and other types of gun violence. Kristin and Mike Song, whose son Ethan was killed by an unintentional shooting at a friend’s house in 2018, spoke to the board about the significance of safe gun storage. Many Democrats later voiced their emotional support and urged Illinois to implement Ethan’s Law.
Sandy Hart, the chair of the Lake County Board and a Democrat from Lake Bluff, said she believes the board has come to a “consensus on moving forward” to support the Illinois law’s passage and work with the county’s public health department, the sheriff’s office, and other county organizations to inform residents about how they can safely store their firearms.
Following the horrific shooting on July 4 in Highland Park, board Democrats used their sizable majority to press for Illinois to implement regulations to decrease gun violence, despite opposition from members in the board’s Republican minority. In August, the board voted 16-5 to add support for the assault weapons ban, passed in January but is currently subject to several legal challenges, and rules governing firearm storage to its legislative advocacy priorities.
According to Hart, support for the Ethan’s Law measure filed to the Illinois legislature on February 8 can be added without going through the committee and returning to the entire board because the board has already included advocacy for safe handgun storage in its 2023 legislative agenda.
In their presentations to the board, Sara Knizhnik, a Democratic representative for District 18, and Kristin Song referenced national statistics demonstrating that 76% of American school shooters use firearms seized from their homes. Knizhnik referred to passing existing gun laws as “one of the biggest problems of our time,.”
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He praised the Songs for their “extremely successful” advocacy by repeatedly sharing the specifics of their sorrow with lawmakers and regular citizens around the nation. As she described the days and weeks that followed Ethan’s passing and how her life had been “shattered into a million pieces,” Kristin Song started crying. Ethan’s Law, which Connecticut senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy reintroduced in January, would require a sizable amount of Republican support in both chambers to become law.
“It’s time we put responsibility where it belongs, on the handgun owner and not on the youngster who accesses the unsecured firearm,” said Knizhnik, a gun violence prevention activist who earned her board seat in November.
She informed the board that weapons are the number one cause of death for US children. She also mentioned that 4 million US children reside in homes with loaded, unlocked handguns and that 54% of gun owners admitted to leaving their firearms unsecured at home. Deputy Chief Chris Covelli of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Executive Director Mark Pfister.
The Lake County Health Department both gave presentations to the county board about their organizations’ efforts to promote the safe storage of firearms. Both spoke out strongly in favor of the board’s plan to concentrate on reducing gun violence, and Covelli stated that the sheriff’s office is “100% on board” and that “there is no wiggle space.”