In wake of Aurora shooting, U.S. Reps. Bill Foster and Sean Casten push for stricter gun laws
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, whose district includes the warehouse in Aurora where a gunman killed five people last week, said Tuesday he is hopeful a House bill strengthening background check requirements for gun owners will have bipartisan support and help jump-start changes to the country’s gun laws.
“I expect that the new Democratic majority will be bringing it up for a vote next week, and I think it will pass,” Foster said. The bill, HR 8, would expand background checks to cover all private firearm sales, including those at gun shows, conducted online or through classified ads. Another bill in the House, HR 1112, aims to close a loophole that allows the sale of a firearm to proceed if a background check is not completed within three business days.
Foster attended a Monday vigil near Aurora City Hall to pay tribute to the Henry Pratt Co. shooting victims with fellow Democrat Sean Casten, whose suburban 6th District borders Foster’s district to the north and east.
Foster said he believes sentiment is shifting toward stricter gun laws, especially among suburban voters and moderates in Congress. He noted at Monday’s vigil that another shooting with multiple victims, the 2008 attack at Northern Illinois University that left five people dead, happened shortly after he joined Congress for the first time.
“Sometimes I get frustrated and angry that in these 11 years, there’s not a lot of progress we can point to,” Foster said. He added that it is “inexcusable” that Republican leaders in the House and Senate blocked votes on gun legislation, especially when he said he thinks those measures have bipartisan support. If the House bill on background checks passes, Foster said it is not clear how a GOP-controlled Senate will react.
Foster, of Naperville, said he believes that those in Congress who have previously blocked more strict gun-control measures are beginning to sense that the country is getting frustrated with the lack of action. Many Republicans, Foster said, have not wanted to cross the National Rifle Association, but he believes that may be changing.
“I see some increasing stiffness of spine on that,” said Foster, who represents the west suburban 11th District.
Casten, who tweeted Friday, “We have too many damned guns,” also didn’t mince words during brief remarks at Monday’s vigil in Aurora, saying, “There are going to be people who say don’t politicize this moment. Please do. We’re not going to change anything unless we politicize this and talk about it.”On Tuesday, Casten’s office said the congressman from Downers Grove supports both pieces of legislation that may soon be up for a vote in the House.
“Putting a stop to this epidemic of gun violence will take all of us, insisting on our right, and the rights of our children, to go to a concert, go to school, go to work, and come home safe and sound at the end of the day,” Casten said in a statement in response to questions from the Tribune. “There is grass roots momentum pressing for Congress to take action. It is time to talk about sensible gun control, background checks, and assault weapons bans, because we don’t have any more time for thoughts and prayers. ”
Casten supports legislation that would prevent people who have a court-imposed restraining order against them from immediately possessing guns, as well as a ban on gun ownership for convicted stalkers. He also backs bans on semi-automatic weapons with military-style features and gun buyback programs, and supports allowing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to store gun records in searchable, electronic formats.
Still, Foster acknowledged that HR 8 likely would not have had an impact in the Aurora case involving the shooter Gary Martin. The Illinois State Police said Monday that it wrongly issued a gun license to Martin, but in a detailed statement, the agency also suggested that the Aurora Police Department may have failed to do its part to ensure the man no longer owned a weapon. Foster said Illinois state laws are designed to try to prevent a shooting such as the one that happened in Aurora.
“People are still trying to understand where the ball got dropped,” he said.