The New Normal: Frequent Public Shootings

 

By Beverly George, ACE Leader

 

The news coming out of Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018 was initially shocking to me, but shortly thereafter I just felt completely numb. This was the eighteenth shooting since January 1, 2018. That’s two or three per week.

I remembered back to the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, April 20, 1999, when fifteen were killed (twelve students, one teacher and the two student shooters who committed suicide) and twenty-one wounded. For me, that’s when my radar for these tragic events was turned on, probably because I was a teacher in a Naperville High School with a similar school profile to Columbine’s.

So why did I feel literally emotionally leaden on Wednesday? I did not even want to listen to the news reports because I knew I would hear this phrase repeated over and over: “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

 

‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you.’

 

Sorry, but after so many shootings since Columbine, these are hollow, empty words. We cannot seem to rise up and DO something about the assault military weapons available to the general public!

  • We cannot require background checks on the sale of guns.
  • We cannot use the No Fly List as a basis to stop a gun sale.
  • We cannot ban bump stocks that ratchet up ordinary guns to perform like machine guns.
  • We cannot ban the sale of military assault weapons like the AR-15.
  • We cannot allow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to collect and study the crime data to study gun violence as a public health issue.
  • We cannot ban the sale of ammunition clips that deliver more than ten rounds.
  • On the other hand, in sympathy with the gun owners, legislators do try to pass a law to require silencers on guns because the constant noise damages the shooter’s hearing. (Imagine the death tolls if the shooter in Parkland or Las Vegas had had silencers on their weapons.)
  • And we need to oppose federal mandates for Concealed Carry Reciprocity, which would allow federal legislation to interfere with states’ rights and dictate to each state who can carry concealed weapons within their own state, according to the website for Everytown for Gun Safety.

There are some voices that argue it’s too late to change the laws because there are assault weapons already in circulation en masse, and if someone wants to kill, they will find a way, and we can’t ever eliminate all violence anyway.

To them, my friend Dr. Tatiana Prowell, a leading oncologist at Johns Hopkins, has the most eloquent response, on her Facebook page.

“If you think there won’t be one simple solution that fixes everything, you are totally correct. But guess what? We are probably never going to eliminate all cancer either, and there’s not ever going to be one simple solution to cancer either, and a whole bunch of my friends and I keep going to work and developing new medicines and designing clinical trials and treating your loved ones, and you all seem to think that makes sense.

Just because it will be hard doesn’t mean we stop trying. Just because we can’t save every life doesn’t mean we can’t save many.”

The American public, including many National Rifle Association (NRA) members, strongly favor better gun control laws. We don’t have to change the 2nd Amendment but we do need to put reasonable limitations on it in the form of gun legislation and extend the conversation to public health.

And yes, I believe it would make a difference because it’s made a difference in Australia and other western countries that allow gun ownership. Other countries don’t even come close to the awful statistics the U.S. holds for gun deaths.

The topic of assault weapons and common-sense gun laws will never come up as long as the NRA keeps funneling rivers of cash into the campaigns of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Richard Burr, and so many other legislators, including a few Democrats, who are elected and then work to protect the interests of their major donors, not their constituents.

 

‘President Donald Trump went to Parkland to address the grieving families and used mental health treatment as his outreach. This was his proposal to try to prevent future horrific events in schools. His carefully scripted speech did not include a word about gun control.’

 

President Donald Trump went to Parkland to address the grieving families and used mental health treatment as his outreach. This was his proposal to try to prevent future horrific events in schools. His carefully scripted speech did not include a word about gun control.

While the argument for better mental health treatment is sound, it’s woefully incomplete. Listening to the PBS News Hour this evening, one expert opined that if Nikolas Cruz had not been able to get into the school, if the building had been closed, he likely would have tried his assault at a public mall or another site frequented by the students. So improving mental health services in schools wouldn’t necessarily head off a shooting in a mall. The shooter in Las Vegas last year was not a high school or college student. But he had an arsenal of rapid-fire weapons in his hotel room and shot at a concert crowd like fish in a barrel. So why does he or any private citizen need an arsenal of assault weapons and a stockpile of ammunition? Why should any American have the right to own an arsenal of that magnitude? I would argue this type of weapon gluttony has absolutely nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment.

Americans own 48% of all privately owned guns in the world. That was the closing statistic from the PBS News Hour last Thursday evening.

It’s been less than a week since the tragedy in Parkland, but the voices of reason are eloquent, loud, and clear, and they’re coming from the students who will have to live with this memory for the rest of their lives. The students are calling for sensible changes to gun laws, and they’re threatening their elected officials with removal from office if their legislative inertia continues.

The students will use the only weapon they have—the ballot box in November.

Enough is enough.

Most Americans want change. I hope we continue our directed grief and outrage to effect the long-overdue changes for greater security in our communities.

 

Source

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_shootings_in_the_United_States#21st_century

 


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

 

To see how your senator or representative voted on proposed gun safety legislation, click here.

 

Voting for Judges: It Can Be a Matter of Life and Death

 

By Anne Swanson, ACE Federal and State Budgets Team Leader

How do you vote for judges? Look at the names and pick someone who sounds good? Do you ever think to ask friends who might be lawyers their opinions about the judges before the election?

Researching the judicial candidates is the same no matter what circuit you are in. I am writing from the perspective of the 18th Judicial Circuit, which is a single county circuit, in DuPage County.

Here are some guidelines on how to research your judicial candidates.

What’s the difference between an associate judge and a full circuit judge?

Both associate and full circuit judges sit on the bench and conduct the business of the courtroom from motions to trials. Associate judges are appointed by the circuit judges. Circuit judges may hear any case assigned to them by the Chief Judge. Associate judges may not preside over criminal cases in which the defendant is charged with an offense punishable by imprisonment for one year or more (felonies).

Who’s elected?

Supreme court, appellate court, and circuit judges are elected. The circuit judges elect one judge from among them to be the Chief Judge of the circuit. Elected judges may seek to retain their position. When you see a name in parentheses for a judicial position, it is the name of the judge whose position is being filled. That judge is leaving that position.

How to research a judge’s record

The best place to research those running for judge is the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) website. The ISBA provides public information about the qualifications of judicial candidates and judges seeking retention. This year, the evaluations will be available after February 23. Here is a portion of what the ISBA website explains.

Judicial vacancies  

The office of a judge is vacant upon death, resignation, retirement, removal, or upon conclusion of their term without retention in office. Supreme and Appellate Court judges are elected by voters in their Judicial District. Circuit Court judges are elected by voters in their Judicial Circuit or county. Supreme and Appellate Court judges serve ten-year terms, while Circuit Court judges serve six-year terms. At the end of their term, each are required to file for retention to serve longer.

Voting for judicial retention 

At the end of the term of Supreme, Appellate, and Circuit judges, each may file a declaration of candidacy to succeed themselves. The names of the judges seeking retention are submitted to eligible voters in the appropriate Supreme and Appellate Court Districts and in the appropriate Judicial Circuits or counties for retention of Circuit judges. Judges seeking retention are listed on the ballot separately and without party designation. Voters are asked the sole question of whether each judge should be retained in office for another term. An affirmative vote of three-fifths (60%) of the electors voting on the question elects the judge to the office for another term.

Judicial evaluations

Candidates who are seeking election to Appellate or Supreme Court judicial vacancies and judges seeking retention to their Appellate or Supreme Court positions are reviewed in a comprehensive evaluation process called Judicial Evaluations. This involves a detailed background investigation by members of the ISBA Judicial Evaluations Committee, followed by an in-person interview of the candidate or judge. The committee then decides how to rate the candidate or judge. Ratings for candidates seeking election to the Appellate or Supreme Court are rated Qualified, Highly Qualified, or Not Qualified. Judges seeking retention are rated Recommended or Not Recommended. The Judicial Evaluations Ratings express the opinion of the Illinois State Bar Association.

In counties outside of Cook, ISBA conducts an advisory poll. The poll is conducted by mail and is sent to all ISBA members in the circuit or district from which a candidate seeks election or a judge seeks retention. Licensed attorneys who are not members of ISBA, or any attorney outside the circuit or district, may also request a ballot. Participants of the poll are asked to evaluate each candidate only if they have professional knowledge of the candidate(s) that enables them to make an informed evaluation. Ballots are confidential and returned inside a ballot envelope, which is mailed in a teller envelope. A certification slip stating that the participant read and understood the instructions of the poll is signed for the ballot to be counted.

Candidates and judges are rated “recommended” or “not recommended” based on whether respondents agree that the candidate “meets acceptable requirements for the office.” Those receiving 65 percent or more “yes” responses to that question are rated “recommended,” and those receiving less than 65 percent are rated “not recommended.” Opinions expressed in the poll are of those attorneys who chose to respond and do not reflect the opinion of the Illinois State Bar Association or the opinion of all Illinois attorneys.

Following are the questions asked on the poll. Please note that questions on “Temperament and Court Management” differ for those seeking a judicial vacancy and those seeking retention. Clarification of those differences are noted below.

Meets Requirements of Office

(Recommendation) Considering the qualifications of the candidate, do you believe this candidate meets acceptable requirements for the office?

Integrity

Adhere to the high standards of integrity and ethical conduct required of the office?

Impartiality

Act and rule impartially and free of any predisposition or improper influence?

Legal Ability

Have adequate legal experience, knowledge, and ability?

Temperament

for a judicial vacancy:
 Exercise appropriate temperament with courtesy, consideration, firmness, fairness, patience, and dignity?

for judicial retention:
 Exercise the judicial temperament to serve with appropriate courtesy, consideration, firmness, fairness, patience, and dignity?

Court Management

for a judicial vacancy:
 Attends to all professional responsibilities including the management of cases/clients, and completes work in a prompt and skillful manner?

for judicial retention:
 Diligently and promptly attends to the duties of the office and assures the steady progress of court business?

Health

Have the physical, mental and emotional health, stamina, and stability needed to perform judicial duties?

Sensitivity to Diversity and Bias

Conducts self and deals with others appropriately to reduce or eliminate conduct or words which manifest bias based on race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status against parties, witnesses, counsel or others?

As in any election, it is important to do your homework. Judges do matter. Sometimes it can be a matter of life or death.

 

Sources

Information taken from the Illinois State Constitution and the Illinois State Bar Association website.

 

**3/2/18: The DuPage County Bar Association has released it’s judicial recommendations. Click here to read about the 2018 candidates.**

 


ACE Federal and State Budgets Team Leader Anne Swanson practiced law in DuPage County for 25 years. She also served as the DuPage County Arbitration Administrator.  She is now retired and is happily selling books at Anderson’s Book Shop in Naperville.