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Anniversary of Dann Shooting Puts Obama's State in Gun Spotlight Again

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Message Martha Rosenberg
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"Laws Failing To Keep Guns Out Of Hands Of Disturbed," said the Chicago Tribune.

"Suspect Had History Of Bizarre Acts."

The stories weren't about Stephen Phillip Kazmierczak of the Northern Illinois University killings or Seung-Hui Cho of Virginia Tech but a 30-year-old former babysitter named Laurie Dann in Winnetka, IL, a suburb north of Chicago.

On May 20, 1988 Dann shot six students at Hubbard Woods Elementary School, one of whom died, and another man before killing herself and ushered in the era of the school shooting.

Like Kazmierczak and Cho, Dann had a pronounced history of mental illness, exhibited warning signs of gun violence and bought all her weapons legally and in compliance with prevailing gun laws.

But when the gun lobby descended upon Winnetka and surrounding suburbs that were considering handgun bans after the violence, its intimidation quotient wasn't what it is today.

Gun advocate Susan Craig was booed off the stage and shown the door after "screaming that criminals will make their own guns anyway," and that the "handgun ban will hurt people," at a town meeting at New Trier East, the high school from which Dann graduated, reported the Chicago Sun-Times

Leaflets circulated by the gun lobby a month after the Dann shootings that claimed, "If Jews had been armed they could have fought the Nazis," were debunked by Rabbi Harold Kudan of Temple Am Shalom in Glencoe, a nearby suburb, at a different public meeting.

"If Jews had guns in Nazi Germany, no one would have survived. It would have been an excuse for Nazis to kill with even greater abandon," he told the assemblage, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Nor has the community's position softened.

In 2004, Hubbard Woods School officials withdrew an invitation for First Lady Laura Bush to read to children at the school where the shooting occurred because of the Bush administration's lax stance on gun control.

Of course it is doubtful Laura Bush would appear at Crane High School on Chicago's West Side to read to the kids. Even students need a police escort to get to Crane these days thanks to a fatal shooting on school grounds in March.

In April Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Father Michael Pfleger, a popular South Side priest, and hundreds of public school students convened at the State of Illinois building in Chicago's Loop to protest gun violence that has killed 21 Chicago Public School students this year.

Even though gun violence at city schools looks different from affluent ones--it tends to be caused by gangs not the mentally ill and no one prescribes "arming" the students as a "solution"-- the legal verities are actually the same:

In both cases the concerns of parents, teachers, doctors, paramedics, police, clergy, social workers, local politicians, mayors and police chiefs are overridden by a few obdurate state lawmakers who are untouched and unperturbed by gun violence.

In fact one new law proposed by Daley in April to close the private-sale loophole---a requirement that handguns be sold at federally licensed firearm businesses where Illinois State Police can conduct background checks--was defeated in Illinois' gun happy House just two weeks later.

Though the minor inconvenience of having to "spend a half hour of your time and go to a local gun shop," to fill out forms might "save these kids," argued Rep. Bob Molaro, a Democrat from Chicago's Southwest Side in closing arguments, Illinois' pro gun lawmakers considered the bill "an affront to the Constitution," writes the Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn and defeated it.

Also defeated--again--was a bill to limit Illinois residents to buying no more than one handgun a month and a bill that would have toughened the law requiring gun owners to keep weapons away from children.

Another Daley proposal--automatic jail time for someone convicted of carrying an unregistered weapon within 1,000 feet of a Chicago school, park, courthouse or public housing development--was promptly ridiculed by Richard Pearson, head of the Illinois State Rifle Association, as "destroying the privilege of gun ownership for lawful citizens," according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

But with 30 shootings in the last two days in Chicago and a bloody spring and summer promised, maybe the debate shouldn't be a push/pull about rights and privileges anymore at all--but about public health and consumer protection.

"A handgun is simply a consumer product," said Mike Beard, executive director of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns after the Dann murders twenty years ago: "An inherently unsafe, deadly consumer product."
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Martha Rosenberg Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by (more...)

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