Speakers at a forum Thursday evening at Evanston’s Civic Center urged the more than 100 people in attendance to take action to reduce gun violence.

Denyse Stoneback, of People for a Safer Society and the National Gun Victims Action Council, called for residents to demand that Illinois lawmakers adopt a gun dealer licensing bill.

“Even beauticians a licensed in Illinois, but gun dealers are not,” she said, arguing that existing federal licensing of gun dealers is insufficient.

She also urged support for a a proposed lethal violence order of protection act that would let family members or police petition a court to have firearms removed from the home of someone determined to be at risk of harming himself or others with a gun.

“We need everybody calling their state senator and representative to vote on each of these bills,” Stoneback said.

She said her group would offer phone bank training at Curt’s Cafe on Central Street at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

Marjorie Fujara.

Marjorie Fujara, a pediatrician at Stroger Hospital, compared gun violence to another public health problem — smoking.

“Look at how activists were able to take down big tobacco,” Fujara said. Big tobacco “has a lot in common with the gun lobby and the NRA, but we took them down.”

She decried federal legislation that prohibits government funding of gun violence research, but noted that bans on smoking in public places, like restaurants, started small — “town by town in California.”

She also argued that gun violence is a mental health issue, that perpetrators frequently lack self-regulation skills — having an inability to control big emotions like anger and grief.

“We all have sentiments that on a really bad day we might want to shoot somebody, but having access to a gun makes it too easy and irreversible to act on that thought,” she added.

Some of the attendees at the meeting organized by Mayor Steve Hagerty.

Lack of social connections is another mental health factor in gun violence, Fujara said. Mass shooters have the same background — “disconnected, outcasts, often with a history of being bullied and not feeling part of the community.”

“If we can restore community connections to those who don’t feel that attachment to others, we can go a long way to reduce gun violence,” she said.

Traci Kurtzer.

Traci Kurtzer, a physician with Northwestern Healthcare who works with domestic violence survivors, said that she’s joined Moms Demand Action, which is working to defeat federal legislation that would require states to offer reciprocity to out-of-state concealed carry permit holders — effectively making the weakest state concealed carry rules apply nationwide.

She urges people at the meeting to get involved in the Throw Them Out campaign of Everytown for Gun Safety, designed to replace lawmakers beholden to the National Rifle Association, and take part in other activist efforts.

Tamara Young.

Among several speakers from the audience at the session was Tamara Young, dressed in a “Stay Gold” T-shirt worn by mourners at last weekend’s funeral for  Yakez Semark, the 20-year-old Evanston Township High School graduate shot to death on Hovland Court earlier this month.

“This is happening among people who know each other,” Young said, “You guys are killing your own brothers.”

She blamed “false, toxic masculinity” as one of the factors behind the violence, and said she doesn’t want this issue “to be swept under the rug.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Toxic masculinity
    Blaming “toxic masculinity” is what happens when a whole generation of people haven’t bothered to learn anything about sex differences in aggression across history, across cultures, or across the other 5,400 species of mammals.

    Males are biologically more predisposed to violence.

    That men are naturally more violent doesn’t mean most men are violent criminals, it’s only a tiny minority. But it does mean most violent criminals will be men. This shouldn’t be hard to understand.

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