Murray returns from State of the Union as Cook County Commissioner calls for ‘common sense’ reform

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) thinks mothers will be a crucial force in passing gun control legislation.

“I think moms can put pressure on Congress and turn this issue around,” she told The Daily last week.

On Tuesday, two moms met to take steps toward gun control. One was Evanston mother and gun control activist Carolyn Murray, whose 19-year-old son Justin Murray was shot to death in November. The other was Michelle Obama, the first lady of the United States.

Murray traveled to the nation’s capital Monday to meet with legislators and to attend the president’s State of the Union address the following night as Schakowsky’s guest.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, of which Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl is a member, flew more than 130 survivors of gun violence and their families to attend the president’s address and meet with lawmakers to push for gun control legislation. Many, including Murray, also met with the first lady.

Murray said the opportunity to meet fellow Americans who had lost loved ones to gun violence provided an emotional and therapeutic space for them to discuss their losses and solutions to the violence.

“It was so needed for us to bond together, but it was so needed to have that space behind the violence, and it was just an amazingly sad solution to what is only necessary with the gun control,” she said Thursday.

During the State of the Union, audience members who had lost loved ones to gun violence held up pictures of the deceased. Obama addressed gun violence at the end of his speech, and Murray said she was so overcome with emotion that she stood up crying and could not sit down, even when the Secret Service requested that she do so.

“I found myself just standing up with so much emotion,” she said. “Not very often do I get to be the mother that the reality kind of kicks in.”

Obama will follow up on Tuesday’s economic and gun violence remarks with comments at the Hyde Park Academy in Chicago’s South Side. Murray said she had been invited and plans to attend Obama’s speech.

During his State of the Union, Obama called for “common sense” gun control reform. Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who represents the 13th district, which includes Evanston, said Cook County took an important step toward this common sense reform when it pass the so-called “lost and stolen” ordinance earlier this month. The ordinance requires gun owners in the county to report firearms that are lost, stolen, sold, destructed or transferred within 48 hours. It will go into effect in August.

Suffredin echoed Obama’s call for universal background checks, describing them as the most common-sense reform possible.

“I think the president’s right on point,” Suffredin said. “The best way to attack this issue is through federal law.”

Suffredin said the passage of the lost and stolen ordinance meant there were few options for the Cook County Board to enact further gun control legislation, and the Illinois General Assembly and the federal government would be responsible for creating powerful change.

Suffredin praised a new anti-gun trafficking bill as an example of this nationwide legislation. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced the bill last month. The bill, which might be named after the 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton who was shot to death last month, would make gun trafficking illegal.

“It’s an important one, but I look forward to the day when we are not naming bills after these wonderful children,” Suffredin said.