Elected Officials Feel the Pain of Gun Violence, Too

Illinois State Sen. Kwame Raoul is passionate about gun reform measures.

Posted: 03/22/2013 11:24 AM EDT

Kwame Raoul (Photo: Twitter via KwameRaoul)

Kwame Raoul recalls the day that there was a drive-by shooting across the street from his home in Chicago. A 14-year-old boy was struck in the leg and nearly died.

“My son was 13 at the time and my daughter was at home and heard the shot,” Raoul said. “It really hit home for me.”

Raoul is not just a resident of Chicago; he is also an Illinois state senator who has attended more than his share of funerals and memorials for young people gunned down by gun violence. But he has decided to attack the issue by introducing legislation aimed at reforming some aspects of the state’s gun-reform laws.

“For me, this is very personal,” Raoul said, in an interview with BET.com. He added that Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old honor student who was killed by gun violence a week after performing in President Obama’s inauguration, was gunned down just a block from his daughter’s school.

“When it hits you where you live, you can’t help but feel it in a very personal way. And, as a legislator, you feel a responsibility to make things better.”

Though there has been widespread – if still insufficient – coverage of the victims of gun violence, what is often ignored is the painstaking work by elected officials who are deeply committed to reforming gun laws. They have attended numerous funerals for those killed by guns. They stand by grieving families in their distress. They see promising youth struck down long before their prime.

Some, like New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, are well known to the public for being deeply committed and using the power of their office to advocate on behalf of gun reform measures. For example, Bloomberg was widely covered by the press for his recent meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and some families of the victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Bloomberg has become well known on the topic nationally, largely because he has spent millions of dollars from his own wealth in an effort to champion gun reform measures and candidates for office who have similar views.

But others, like Raoul, operate under far less media coverage. Raoul is sponsoring a bill that would call for universal background checks as well as calling for people to be legally responsible to report lost or stolen guns.

“It’s important to continue seeking solutions,” said Raoul, who succeeded Barack Obama in the State Senate after the future president was elected to the U.S. Senate.

“There is a fear by some that any effort to control gun violence is synonymous with an effort to take their guns away,” he said. “On the other hand, there are some who are advocates of gun control who have taken the position that any sportsman who is a hunter with a gun is not sensitive to gun violence. We have to find common ground and get things done.”

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