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State Representative La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, announced he has filed his "Safe Spaces in Public Places" legislation to protect Illinoisans from mass shootings. From left to right at his news conference in Chicago are Representative Ford, and psychiatrists Dr. James MacKenzie and Dr. Jennifer Kurth.
By Travis Akin
To deter and prevent mass shootings and violence, Illinois State Representative La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, has filed new legislation that will provide a safer environment in many of the state’s public places.
The "Safe Spaces in Public Places Act" (House Bill 5970) will be officially introduced during the Fall Veto Session of the General Assembly beginning November 13. Ford was joined at a news conference October 14 at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago by medical experts supporting the legislation.
Ford is a former Chicago Public Schools teacher and the chairman of the Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee. He was also officially appointed on March 19 to the Legislative Public Safety Group in the Illinois House of Representatives. Ford said his legislation is a result of the Legislative Public Safety Group task force that was bipartisan, included many experts and analyzed safety in public places.
"We should come together and consider experts’ findings and recommendations to deter preventable, mass public shootings – including metal detector screening programs, mental health services, school infrastructure improvements, emergency preparedness and community relations," Ford said. "Shootings and violence inside supposedly safe spaces have become a public health epidemic. No one gets shot inside Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 at O’Hare after people go through metal detectors. Public places should be safe spaces and should have the same safety precautions available as people have in airport departure terminals."
The federal Consolidated Appropriations Act passed this year included legislation known as the STOP School Violence Act. The new law authorized nearly $1 billion for matching grant programs through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) through 2028. This restores federal grant assistance specifically for school security equipment and technology, by providing a 10-year reauthorization for what had previously been known as Secure Our Schools (SOS) grants, with significantly expanded funding and allowable uses.
Just last month, a 15-year old student wrote a threat on the back of a desk at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview and the school immediately initiated screening for guns and knives at the football game and in the school building.
Ford also said the bill to provide metal detectors is not mandatory but he will work with doctors, mental health experts and other interested parties to craft the legislation.
"Illinois needs to be prepared if there is a threat. Right now, the conversation is dead and silent about proactive attacks. If Illinois becomes a leader in this arena, we are going to be able to get tens of millions of federal dollars to provide safe spaces," Ford said.
Besides the recent Florida shooting that killed 17 people, the data about shootings is staggering, Ford said.
· On October 11, an Illinois teenager who shot up the Mattoon High School cafeteria in September 2017 was given a juvenile and adult sentence in court. Fifteen-year-old Josiah Lyons was sentenced to juvenile prison until he turns 21-years-old.
· On October 12, the Federal Emergency Management Agency released a study showing that in the last 50 years, there have been 1,317 shootings on school property or at school events across America, killing 713 people and injuring 1,458. Twenty-eighteen has already seen the most school shootings in nearly 50 years.
· In August, there were two shooters behind the gunfire that erupted at a Friday night high school football game in Wellington in Palm Beach County, Florida that injured two people. In February, two teens were busted taking a cache of loaded guns — including three assault rifles — and drugs to a high school basketball game in Wisconsin.
· Figures from a new study show an increase in the number of shootings on or near college campuses over the last 15 years. The study, conducted by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, looked at 190 incidents where at least one person was shot at 142 colleges from the 2001-2002 school year to the 2015-2016 school year. Approximately 2.5 million students were directly or indirectly exposed to gun violence through their enrollment at the 142 colleges where the shootings occurred.
· Between 2000 and 2011, there were over 150 shootings in hospitals.
Medical experts says mass shootings can cause post-traumatic stress disorder and have long-term effects on youth. Additionally, even the threat of a mass shooting can lead to anxiety and mood disorders, said Dr. James MacKenzie, a Chicago child psychiatrist and former president of the Illinois Psychiatric Society, the state’s largest psychiatric group.
"By reducing the possibility of violence, we are actually protecting our children, college students and all young people in public places," MacKenzie said. "This legislation is a simple precaution that will make youth feel safer, making it easier for them to learn and not feel terrible anxiety."
Rep. Ford said studies prove that metal detectors reduce violence:
· A 2000 study found in Chicago, metal detectors prevented 294 weapons, 15 of which were guns, from entering schools. A 1993 sample of New York City schools with metal detectors showed a deterrent effect because some students said they were less likely to bring guns to school.
- · New York City police data shows that metal detectors in city schools have already helped make kids safer. One study showed that metal detectors stopped 37 box-cutters, 36 knives and eight guns from getting into school buildings, according to NYPD data.
- · According to a report in June by Houston TV station KHOU, Aldine Independent School District in the Houston area completed installation of more than 200 metal detectors district-wide around the 2009-2010 school year. Before then, the district averaged nearly 12 weapons incidents every year. Afterwards, an average of just 2.3 illegal weapon incidents were recorded each year.
- Spring Independent School District near Houston took the same approach after the 2013 fatal stabbing of a Spring High School student. All the district’s high schools are now equipped with metal detectors. Before metal detectors were installed, the district averaged nearly 20 weapon incidents per year. That average dropped to nine per year after installation. Spring ISD also saw a significant drop in weapon incidents the past two school years.
- An ABCNEWS/Good Morning America poll of 500 high school students released in March found that one in eight kids say they personally know a student who has brought a gun to school and a third of high schoolers think their schools still are not doing enough to protect them.
The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora. If the bill becomes law, the demand for metal detectors will create hundreds of jobs in Illinois because there are several Illinois companies that make metal detectors, including Yates Enterprises of Chicago and Minooka-based Metal Defender, Ford said.
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October 15, 2018 at 05:21PM