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Crain's Chicago Business: U.S. House panel to get close-up look at city's gun violence

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CHICAGO, IL, October 1, 2019 | comments
An unusual session at Kennedy-King College will give federal lawmakers another take on what's behind Chicago's murder wave and whether to treat it as a health emergency.
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In a response of sorts to White House attacks on Chicago’s efforts to fight gun violence, a congressional committee will hold an unusual hearing here Oct. 3 on whether shootings should be treated as a public health threat and not just as criminal activity.

Four area members of Congress headed by Robyn Kelly, D-Matteson, and Bobby Rush, D-Chicago, are due to attend the session of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee at Kennedy-King College on the South Side.

They’re scheduled to hear from, among others, the immediate past president of the National Medical Association, the founder of the University of Chicago’s Trauma Center, mayoral Director of Violence Prevention Norman Kerr and a pastor whose son was shot and killed outside a Matteson tavern.

“Since Chicago has been talked about so much, we wanted to hold a hearing at a place where Chicagoans can come” to listen and testify, Kelly said. “What gets the attention is the mass shootings. But we have to look at shootings that are far more routine.”


Beyond stepping up efforts to curb gun sales, Congress needs to examine the long-term impact of gun violence on community life, with people afraid to travel in their own neighborhoods, Kelly added. “How many people have to be shot, how many people have to die before Donald Trump and the Republican Party act?”

Kelly’s reference was to stalled efforts in Congress to toughen gun-purchase background laws and perhaps take other steps. President Trump so far has not signed off on any action, but recently met with the head of the National Rifle Association.


“Gun violence is an epidemic that not only plagues my hometown of Chicago but also undermines the public health and safety of communities across the U.S.,” Rush said in a statement. “I am confident that this hearing will shine a bright light on this epidemic, and I am equally optimistic that we will walk away with tangible solutions.”

Also set to attend the hearing is North Side Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who generally agrees with Kelly and Rush that stronger national controls are needed on gun sales and possession. But Channahon Republican Adam Kinzinger also is scheduled to be there, and his district includes a wide swath of rural downstate areas, where attitudes toward gun control tend to be far different from that of Chicagoans.

Kelly said there are real, scientifically valid reasons to consider the large number of shootings a health problem. For instance, she said, two-thirds of those who die annually from guns are not shot by someone else but commit suicide.

The subcommittee is chaired by California Democrat Anna Eshoo.

The original article can be found on the Crain's Chicago Business website here.
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