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Q&A: Lt. Gov. Stratton talks preventative measures to stop gun violence, calls for federal assault weapons ban

Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton delivers her remarks after being sworn to her second term as Lt. Gov. during ceremonies Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Springfield, Ill.
Charles Rex Arbogast
Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton delivers her remarks after being sworn to her second term as Lt. Gov. during ceremonies Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Springfield, Ill.

Illinois became the ninth state to outlaw assault weapons after the state Supreme Court upheld the state law banning them on Aug. 11.

The bill signed by Gov. JB Pritzker also restricts how gun manufacturers advertise their products, banning advertisements thought to appeal to children or militants. The law allows civil lawsuits from the public to be filed against the companies if they violate the restrictions.

But both laws now face challenges in the federal court system.

WCBU's Camryn Cutinello spoke with Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, who says Illinois is on the right side of history with the ban and other measures to stop gun violence.

They talked about what work Stratton believes is left to do, and the relationship between state and federal government when it comes to an issue as large as gun violence.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

How important is collaboration between the state and federal government for issues such as gun violence?

Juliana Stratton: Collaboration is incredibly important when I think about, for example, the bipartisan Safer Communities Act that was signed into law by President Biden. And we just passed about a year. But that was the first time in close to 30 years that we saw such significant movement on a gun safety bill.

And Illinois, along with states all across the country have benefited from that collaboration with the federal government. Because it includes not only some real leadership about what we need to do with background checks, and making sure that guns are kept out of the hands of people who should not have them. But it also invests billions of dollars to keep our schools and communities safer, including investments in mental health care, investments in after school programs and programs within schools, so that we can make sure that we not only prevent violence, but also address the trauma that all of our states are experiencing in the wake of mass shootings and everyday gun violence.

So that collaboration, we know that this is not just an issue that states can take on on their own. It's not something that municipalities can do on their own. The issue of gun violence in America requires the collaboration of municipalities, counties, states, but also the federal government. And I'm grateful that the Biden-Harris administration has taken such incredible leadership on this issue.

When it comes to gun violence, what do you see as the balance between responsive and preventative measures?

Stratton: You know, of course, responding to violence is critically important. And we have to make sure that we address the long term effects of violence that are not just how an individual... the loss of life and the impact that that has on families all across America, and certainly all across Illinois. But it's lingering trauma, that sort of we almost see repeating itself, generationally, you have communities that have suffered decades of disinvestment, that are often the very same communities that have the highest rates of everyday gun violence.

And I think the way that our administration has looked at this is that you have to approach it from lots of different aspects. It cannot just be thinking about gun violence prevention, only from the standpoint of policing, although effective, constitutional policing is important. But what can we do not just to respond to the violence, but what can we do to prevent the violence in the first place?

And so, you know, we want every community to thrive. And so I often think about the things that we have done, such as making sure that every three and four-year-olds can go to preschool. Making sure that community college is free, for those who are at or below the median income level. Making sure that people have access to fresh, healthy nutrient-dense food, and access to health care. All of those things are going to help families thrive across Illinois. And when families have what they need, we will see, I think from a long term standpoint, a reduction in violence.

Going forward, what more would you like to see done at the federal level?

Well, I think, you know, going forward, we would love to see a federal assault weapons ban. And I think that is leadership that we have heard from the Biden-Harris administration of saying that that's what's needed. It's certainly what Governor Pritzker and I have called for, you know, this is an issue that affects every single state. We are seeing mass shootings in far too many states. We are seeing everyday gun violence in every community.

So what I believe is that we have to continue collaborating, we have to continue partnering, but we do need a federal assault weapons ban to really address (it). And as you know, we've had this before in the United States. It is not unprecedented, and we see the epidemic that honestly is really a uniquely American problem. The way that we see the level of gun violence and the lack of safety in so many communities. We see this happening in America in ways we just don't in so many other countries.

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Camryn Cutinello is a reporter at WCBU. You can reach Camryn at cncutin@ilstu.edu.