Jim Davidson said he felt compelled to act.
After the Valentine’s Day murder of 17 students in Parkland, Fla. by a former student armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle, Davidson and his wife put a homemade sign saying “Enough! Ban assault weapons” in front of their North Aurora home.
Davidson held a similar sign Sunday morning, March 4 as part of a small group of protesters outside a gun show at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton, his first time involved in protesting.
“For years, we’ve had mass shootings and not responded to them,” Davidson said. “I sat and did nothing, just like the government. I decided I had to do something now.”
The former soldier said he fired machine guns and rocket launchers during his tour of duty in the U.S. Army.
“I’ve used weapons for their intention,” Davidson said. “Assault weapons are not for hunting. They have one point: to kill.”
At one point Sunday morning, Davidson and state Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee), who was wearing an NRA hat, engaged in conversation.
Davidson asked Skillicorn if he had kids would he want them to be able to have guns in their possession.
“If I had kids I would teach them how to shoot safely,” Skillicorn said. “I would want them to learn that guns are not toys.”
Skillicorn said more focus needs to be put on school safety, not attacking the Second Amendment of the U.S Constitution, giving citizens the right to bear arms.
“I am sponsoring legislation to get rid of unfunded mandates and using the money for school security,” the state representative said.
Scott Carrier drove more than an hour to be at a counter rally Sunday near the gun show’s entrance, showing support for the National Rifle Association and Americans’ right to have guns in their possession.
The Diamond, Ill. resident said that far more teens are killed from alcohol-related accidents each year than from guns. He added the alcohol industry spends $30 million per year in campaign contributions to politicians to squelch anti-alcohol legislation. Drinking is far more of a risk to teens than guns are, Carrier said.
Holding a sign saying “Proudly NRA and I vote,” Carrier said as some of the proposed state legislation is now written his daughter’s ISRA Junior rifle team would have to be disbanded because the team members would all be at risk of felony arrests as their shooting clips contain more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
He added the proposed HB1465 that would set a 21 and older age restriction for rifle purchases also would negatively impact his daughter’s team.
There are enough laws on the books to control violence now, Carrier said, and that more laws are not the answer.
“In 2014, 88,000 convicted felons attempted to buy firearms and were stopped,” Carrier said. “A convicted felons trying to buy a firearm carries a 15-year prison sentence. Do you know how many convictions for that there were? Four.”
Liam McKenna of Warrenville, a life member of the NRA, agreed that more laws are not the answer. He noted that Chicago, New York, Miami and Los Angeles have some of the county’s most strict gun laws and yet have some of the country’s worst violence.
“At the end of the day, laws are not going to protect someone from a gunman,” McKenna said. “No law ever stopped anyone from dying.”
Wheaton police said that no arrests were made as protesters from the two sides often engaged in heated conversations during the rallies.
Gary, an area resident who asked that his last name not be used, said that he came to the gun-control protest to support his wife. A gun owner himself, Gary said he is not a member of the NRA and has no interest in becoming one.
“I go to the range once or twice a year and shoot some paper to prove I can still do it,” he said.
He admitted that he has no idea what the answers are to calming gun violence, but said something has to be done.
“The other side cites things, but they are full of inaccuracies,” Gary said. “I don’t know the answers, but I know further division on the issue isn’t the answer.”
Another anti-assault weapons protester, who asked to go by the name “Jezebel” to protect her identity, went toe to toe in debates with gun supporters during the protests Sunday.
“These are people that you wouldn’t even want at your block party,” Jezebel said of her protest opponents. “They are misogynistic, abusive to women and wanting us to suffer. They don’t want to be questioned. I am embarrassed for them.”
The Chicago resident said her friend’s husband who had been depressed killed himself with a gun after a night of drinking.
“Had he not had a gun, he could have been drinking and depressed, but would have still been here,” he said.
Former U.S. Marine Bob Garza, a gun ownership proponent, said that four or five times more children are killed with knives and cutting utensils than are killed with assault weapons. The Joliet resident added that two or three times more children are killed by a strike with a hand or foot than are killed with a rifle.
“More children age 5 and under drown in the bathtub than are killed by firearms,” Garza said. “We keeping hearing ‘not one more life.’ Why then are we not looking at banning bathtubs? Why are we not protecting our children and saying ‘You can no longer build a home with a bathtub. You have to build a shower’?”
— Gun-control proponents, foes square off in Wheaton —-