PEORIA — Germantown Hills resident Melanie Meismer said that more dialogue about gun control needs to take place since guns are not going anywhere soon.
“(People) have got to have more of this dialogue,” she said. “Regardless of people’s opinions on guns, they’re here.”
In part, Meismer got her wish March 13 when four experts came together as a panel to discuss gun control. One of these experts — Eureka resident Jason Jording — is an NRA certified firearms instructor. The panelists met at Universalist Unitarian Church in Peoria at 3000 W. Richwoods Boulevard.
Besides Jording, the panel included Nicole Anderson Cobb, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence outreach coordinator; Dr. Jack Gilligan, Fayette Cos. president and CEO; and Paula Carpenter, Peoria School District 150 school psychologist.
Part of the panel’s discussion became a time to talk about legal opportunities to hinder gun violence.
“Each year over 3,000 Illinoisans are killed by gun violence,” Anderson said.
Anderson said recent news reports show six incidents of illegal weapon possession in the Peoria area.
The Peoria Journal Star reported Jan. 31 that a Peoria resident pleaded guilty to illegally having a weapon. Another news report March 30, 2012 stated a Peoria resident pleaded guilty to the same crime.
Anderson’s question was, “How do we address this?”
Jording said a lack of gun control is not the issue.
“There is no loophole in Illinois,” he said of gun safety regulations in place.
Jording said the procedure regarding background checks and Firearm Owner’s Identification cards is thorough enough. He also said that if such background checks cannot stop criminals from getting guns, that innocent members of society need concealed carry as a form of protection.
“The criminals already have the concealed weapons,” he said.
The argument for concealed carry led Jording to a discussion of constitutional rights as God-given rights.
He said that since the right to bear arms is among other constitutional rights that there is a stigma attached.
“It must have been important,” he said referencing the fact that the founding fathers included the second amendment in the Constitution.
He said that in addition to the right to bear arms, that many police have responded positively to the idea of concealed carry.
“They all say, ‘We like concealed carry,’” he said.
What police like about concealed carry is the fact that people with concealed carry permits can be identified quickly and thus seen as less of a threat — being less likely to commit a violent crime — to an officer on duty, according to Jording.
He also said letting criminals go free is the problem.
“The solution is to put more criminals behind bars,” he said. “They continue to do it because they are not being caught and prosecuted.”
Gilligan did not say he disagreed with Jording but also said he believes America’s violent culture needs to be changed for the public’s safety.
He said the mainstream media is causing a change in attitude.
“We do have a culture problem,” Jording agreed. “There’s no doubt.”
Anderson and Gilligan said the solution is to be more open with neighbors about gun safety. Anderson said that people should know how their neighbors deal with weapons in their households, so they know children cannot access these guns.
“Ultimately, it’s going to take the involvement of people,” Gilligan said.
Meismer helped organize the event alongside the League of Women Voters of Illinois, as well as the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.
Garry Moore, WEEK News 25 TV personality, mediated the event. About 50 people attended.