by Mary C. Piemonte
On the November ballot, voters in the 2014 general election in Cook County will be asked “whether they support banning the sale of assault weapons and requiring universal background checks for firearm transfers; and whether they believe the State should provide more funding for mental health treatment,” according to Cook County Board of Commissioners.
The Cook County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on July 23, placing the two non-binding advisory referenda on the November 4, 2014 ballots.
The resolution, co-sponsored by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and nine members of the Board of Commissioners, called for the first referendum to read:
“Shall the Illinois General Assembly enact the Illinois Public Safety Act (Senate Bill 3659) which would require universal background checks for firearm transfers and prohibit the sale and transfer of assault weapons, assault weapon attachments and high capacity ammunition magazines?”
In a press release about the matter, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle stated that gun violence in communities, “particularly in the City of Chicago, is at a crisis point.”
And she added that “Requiring universal background checks and banning semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are simple common-sense measures which should be enacted at the State level. This referendum will give the residents of Cook County the opportunity to make their voices heard.”
Preckwinkle reported that “Each year, more than 1, 000 people are killed by firearms in the State of Illinois, and more illegal guns per capita are confiscated in the City of Chicago … than either New York or Los Angeles.” And she added that “Current state and national law only requires background checks when licensed dealers sell firearms, covering only about 60% of total sales.”
According to Preckwinkle, ”Studies have shown that universal background checks significantly reduce the number of guns entering the illegal market.”
Preckwinkle’s press released added that “a review of mass shootings by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that the use of an assault weapon or high capacity magazine resulted in 135% more victims and 57% more deaths compared to other mass shootings.”
The Illinois Public Safety Act (Senate Bill 3659) was introduced into the Illinois Senate in May 2014 and referred to the Assignments Committee.
Mental Health Funding
The Cook County Board of Commissioners also approved a second referendum question about mental health funding, which will also appear on the November ballots of Cook County voters that will read:
“Shall the General Assembly of the State of Illinois appropriate additional funds to provide necessary mental health services for the people of the State of Illinois.”
Prekwinkle stated in her press release that “There’s no doubt that Springfield faces tough financial choices.” However, she and other commissioners encouraged the General Assembly “to return to fully funding mental health services for the people of our state.”
“Mental illness affects people of all ages, races, genders, and economic status. Mental health is critical to the well-being and vitality of our families, businesses and communities. It also plays an important role in public safety,” Preckwinkle said.
Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman, the sponsor of the resolution added that those with the power to create changed “should not lose sight of the significant impact state funding cuts have had on mental health services at the local level.”
“It’s time for Springfield to get its financial priorities in order but not at the expense of those people who are most in need, especially in the area of mental health care. We need to have an open and honest conversation on the issue of mental health services in Illinois and I believe this referendum will help us do just that,” Doody Gorman added.