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Nearly 350 doctors, including some from Chicago, have called upon legislators to pass the Protect Illinois Communities Act. On January 4, doctors across Illinois spoke out about the horrors they’ve seen caused by gun violence. They, like many others, have dubbed it “a public health crisis.
These doctors have seen the devastation that gun violence has created in emergency rooms, operating rooms, and hospitals across the state. Gun violence, especially from assault weapons, has a huge impact on all Illinoisians.
Lives Lost to Gun Violence
Last year, Chicago had 695 homicides and over 2,600 shootings. Retrospectively that number was lower than the year prior which had 904 murders. Chicago West and South Side communities have had the highest level of violence since the late 1960s.
On July 4, 2022, a mass shooting occurred in Highland Park. The gunman killed seven people and injured over 30 during the 4th of July parade. The victim’s ages ranged between 8 years old and 88. Robert Crimo III is facing charges for this terrifying event.
He is accused of using a semiautomatic assault rifle to fire more than 70 shots from a perch overlooking the parade route. Officers stated that Crimo III dressed in women’s clothing to “blend in with the crowd” as he made his escape from the scene. They found the rifle at the scene and believe it may have fallen out of his bag as he fled.
Five of the seven victims murdered died at the scene. One of the victims, Lauren Bennett, described the searing pain she felt being shot twice in the back at a hearing legislators held on December 12.
Protect Illinois Communities Act From a Trauma Doctor’s Perspective
Dr. Selwyn O. Rogers, Jr., Professor and Chief of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery Director at The University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Science, stated, “About one-third of all of Chicago’s violent crime (assaults, stabbing, and firearm-related injuries) occur within a five-mile radius of the University of Chicago.”
He was one of the doctors who signed the letter calling for legislators to pass the Protect Illinois Communities Act. Dr. Rogers, Jr. believes the Protect Illinois Communities Act is extremely important and can save numerous lives.
Youth Lives Lost Recently to Gun Violence
Dr. Rogers, Jr. spoke about a recent tragedy, “On January 1, 2023, one Black teenage boy was killed and three Black teenage boys were injured with an assault weapon or high capacity magazine when a car pulled up to the car that they were driving in and opened fire. In a short time, tens and tens of rounds of bullets hailed upon the victims killing one and striking the other boys multiple times.”
When the Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment as the right to bear arms, assault weapons and high-capacity magazine weapons did not exist. A musket required multiple steps to fire one round and took time. Today, seconds can wipe out 4 teenage boys.
Weapons of War
“Finally, assault weapons and high capacity magazine weapons are weapons of war. They may be needed on the battlefield during war. However, they are not needed on our domestic streets,” Dr. Rogers, Jr. continued.
A recent study found that the fatality rate of Black men was higher in American cities than on the battlefields of Afghanistan during the conflict.
Dr. Rogers, Jr. stated that UChicago sees “over 5,000 trauma activations per year from all causes of trauma, 40% of which are due to firearm-related injuries. That means that last year alone we saw 2,000 people who were victims of firearm-related injuries.”
“Due to American exceptionalism related to gun ownership and our inability to develop and implement common sense Gun laws as well as control the distribution of illegal firearms, we have more guns in circulation in the United States than we have men, women, and children. In fact, in 2021, firearm-related injuries surpassed motor vehicle collisions as the number one killer of children below the age of 18,” he further explained.
Finally, using a public health approach (seatbelts, speeding laws, speed bumps in school zones, airbags), we have steadily decreased mortality from motor vehicle collisions while cars themselves have gotten faster and highways have proliferated. In contrast, we have not applied public health approaches to prevention nor have we made firearms themselves safer for hundreds of years. This ban is an attempt to reduce the number of these weapons of war on our streets and make our streets, churches, mosques, schools, supermarkets, homes, basically, everywhere, safer.
A Progressive Step Forward
On the morning of Jan. 6, 2023, the Protect Illinois Communities Act took a step forward to becoming reality. Governor J.B. Pritzker sat in the front row of the Illinois House chambers when the approval was made to send the act before the Senate.
The Protect Illinois Communities Act passed with 64 House members saying yes; 43 voted no. Governor Pritzker’s presence at the debate was a rare occurrence. However, it made it clear how important the Protect Illinois Communities Act was for him.
If the bill passes in the Senate he will be able to make good on the pledge he made during his successful fall reelection campaign. As he was leaving the House, Pritizkers stated he has “been engaged in this process all along, wanted to see it through to the end.”
Hope For the Future
Many are hopeful the Senate will see how important the Protect Illinois Communities Act truly is. This bill could save countless lives and help keep weapons of mass destruction off of the streets.
By Sheena Robertson
Interview: Dr. Selwyn O. Rogers, Jr. 1/5/2023
Chicago Tribune: Illinois House sends Senate bills banning certain semi-automatic weapons, expanding abortion protections
Lawndale News: Doctors Across Illinois Call on Legislators to Pass the Protect Illinois Communities Act
ABC News: Highland Park shooting suspect pleads not guilty to 117 counts
PBS News Hour: Bond set for father of Highland Park shooting suspect
Daily Herald: ‘A year unlike any other’: Highland Park shooting victims continue to deal with grief, anger and pain
The Atlantic: The Crime Spike Is No Mystery
WTTW News: Chicago Tops 630 Homicides, 2,600 Shootings in 2022: Police
Chicago Police Department: CompStat
Protect Illinois Communities: NEARLY 350 DOCTORS ACROSS THE STATE CALL ON LEGISLATORS TO PASS THE PROTECT ILLINOIS COMMUNITIES ACT
Evanston Roundtable: Letter to the editor: Support the Protect Illinois Communities Act
ABC 7: Illinois gun laws 2023: Lawmakers push to pass assault weapons ban in final days of general assembly
Featured Image Courtesy of Lorie Shaull‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Courtesy of Elvert Barnes‘ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of Lorie Shaull‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License