‘Pain never ever goes away:’: Gun violence families speak in assault-weapons ban hearing


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — On Monday, families impacted by gun violence had the chance to speak as state lawmakers try to pass an assault-style weapons ban.

The families addressed state lawmakers at a hearing on legislation that would ban assault-style weapons.

Gwendolyn Baxter’s son, Larry Harper, was shot and killed during an attempted robbery.

“I just don’t understand why do we need weapons of mass destruction on the streets?” Baxter said. “Why do they have to be sold?”

The Protect Illinois Communities Act would ban dozens of weapons, including the AR-15 rifle — which has been used in countless mass shootings. The measure would also raise the age for most Illinoisans to carry a firearm from 18 to 21.

Mary Dieudonne-Hill’s daughter, Alisia, was killed when a gunman stormed a party she attended while away at college.

“This pain never ever goes away,” she said. “I urge lawmakers to move with urgency. Urgency.”

The July 4th Highland Park shooting renewed focus on gun violence and the push to ban assault-style weapons.

Lauren Bennett was shot multiple times that day.

For those who have never felt a bullet rip through your skin — let me explain how it feels,” Bennett said. “Imagine a hot, metal dart-like projectile tearing through your body at supersonic speed faster than the speed of sound.”

Several witnesses told the committee that for some Black communities, the pain the Highland Park community experienced last summer is routine.

“In this city, 10 Black kids that were shot and killed that day. There were 62 that were shot and injured and yet the reaction and the result of what has come from that reaction, both from a local, state and federal perspective, far surpasses what we’ve been given and what has happened to us,” Jaquie Algee said.

The challenge for lawmakers is not everyone thinks guns are the problem.

“Current gun control measures did not fail Highland Park, but incompetent authorities and a bloated bureaucracy did,” Chris Thatch said.

State Rep. Bob Morgan, who is shepherding the legislation, said he hopes to pass the legislation early next month. But enacting new gun legislation has been difficult even with Democrats holding supermajorities in Springfield.

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