Rep. Kelly: We need young people's help to enact stricter gun laws
With young people “shaming” adults to do more to prevent gun violence, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, speaking at a Park Forest church, said “we need their help” to enact stricter laws.
Kelly’s talk at St. Irenaeus Church came Sunday — a day after youth around the country took part in “March for Our Lives” rallies. Kelly said she hoped the momentum of the movement would result in more young people registering to vote and casting ballots in fall elections.
Kelly, who won election to Congress in 2013 on a platform of gun violence prevention, told about 200 people gathered at the church that Republicans “are large and in charge” when it comes to determining whether gun laws advance in Congress.
“We have to change who’s in Congress,” she said.
Kelly, D-Matteson, had returned from Saturday’s rally in Washington and was wearing a “March for Our Lives” T-shirt. The event at the church had been organized by Park Forest People of Faith, an interfaith group.
The Rev. Terry Johnson, pastor of St. Irenaeus, called the rallies “powerful.”
“We need to listen to these young people,” Johnson said. “We need to stand with these young people.”
Kelly said “it’s so frustrating” that efforts to pass gun control legislation have continued to stall, and noted that Democrats are trying to work in a bipartisan way
“I do think they’ll stick together,” Kelly said of the youth who took part in the rallies.
Hazel Crest Police Chief Mitch Davis, speaking at the church event, praised demonstrators participating in the “March for Our Lives” events as people “taking the bull by the horns.”
While mass shootings, such as Las Vegas and Parkland are “horrendous,” Davis said that “we have shootings every day in our communities that go unheard,” and that instances of gun violence have become so commonplace that people have become “numb” to it.
Davis previously worked 10 years as a police officer in Park Forest and is an executive board member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
Asked whether they supported a proposal to arm teachers, he, Kelly and Park Forest Police Chief Christopher Mannino indicated they did not.
“We want teachers to focus on the job of teaching,” Mannino said.
Davis cautioned that legislation is in the works in Springfield that would eliminate funding for school resource officers.
He said that beyond the security aspect of having a police officer in a school, the officers build relationships with students that “carry on far beyond the walls of those schools.”
Apart from tougher gun laws, Kelly and Davis said that more needs to be done to address some of the underlying causes of gun violence, including lack of jobs, rather than simply locking up offenders.
“Mass incarceration is not going to do it,” Davis said.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t lock people up,” but incarceration should not just be “punitive” and that those locked up should be able to emerge from prison with skills that enable them to find a job, he said.
“Let’s spend some money on social services so we can address the root causes,” Davis said.
Kelly said that “we need to invest in our young people” so that they are “picking up job skills instead of picking up guns.”