Senate walks out for solidarity, then votes for stronger gun laws

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As students nationwide walked out of classrooms Wednesday morning to demand action on new gun laws, Illinois state senators walked out of the Capitol in an expression of solidarity and later approved extending the waiting period for assault weapon purchases.

The legislation, which passed with bipartisan support, will be sent to the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who on Tuesday was hotly criticized for vetoing a bipartisan gun dealer licensing bill the day before the student walkout.

Senators walked out of the Capitol to the Lincoln statue on Second Street. Four members delivered speeches calling for an end to gun violence, followed by recognition of each of the victims of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and a moment of silence. Senators then returned to the Capitol to take action.

State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) organized the event.

“In the month since the shooting, classmates of the victims have been demanding their voices be heard, demanding that we do something so students aren’t afraid to go to school, to the mall or to a concert,” Bush said.

“Just last weekend I met with students in my district from Grayslake and Round Lake who share those same concerns. They want to feel safe at school and they want their voices to be heard. We’re here because we want these young people to know that we hear them and we support them.”

State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) asked the crowd to also remember Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer, who was fatally shot Feb. 13 – the day before the Parkland mass shooting – while chasing a man near the Thompson Center.

“Guns and bullets do not discriminate against race, religion, age, gender or creed, whether you wear a school uniform or a police uniform. For that reason we must stand united,” Collins said. “Let us unite and after today’s solidarity and reflection, let us raise our voices together.”

Also on Wednesday, the Senate approved two additional gun safety measures – a bump stock ban and an age restriction on the sale of certain weapons and ammunition.

The National School Walkout occurred in communities throughout Illinois and across the country. It was described as an unprecedented show of unity and political solidarity by students who are fed up with gun violence and inaction by political leaders.