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Gun Violence Plays Heavily in Illinois Special

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Quigley noted that gun violence is a regular occurrence in the Chicago area he represents. Gun control could be a major issue in the upcoming 2nd District special election.

There were headline-grabbing mass shootings in Tucson, Ariz.; Aurora, Colo.; and Newtown, Conn. — and then there’s daily life in Chicago.

“It’s not that I’m insensitive,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat representing downtown and northwest Chicago. “This kind of shocking, horrible situation is taking place in neighborhoods in the 2nd congressional District every weekend.”

As the nation laments the Dec. 14 massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut, 2nd District residents know the pain all too well. In the past two years, Chicago gun violence spiked on the city’s south and west sides.

Gun policy rarely plays a deciding role in an election — especially in a Democratic primary. But the issue looms large in the upcoming special election to replace ex-Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. A confluence of local events placed gun policy in the spotlight here long before the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

There’s the frequent gun violence: 319 public school students were shot in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the Chicago Police Department. Twenty-four of them died.

Then, earlier this month, the local Democratic bosses’ favorite candidate, state Sen. Donne Trotter, attempted to bring a gun onto a plane at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Trotter said he didn’t realize the firearm was in his garment bag, but he must appear in court next month to contest the felony charge.

Just a few days later, on Dec. 11, a federal appeals court overturned the state’s restriction on carrying concealed weapons. It was the only statewide ban of its kind in the country.

Finally, there’s the large roster of Democrats seeking the seat, including two previously backed by the Illinois State Rifle Association. Given the unwieldy field, any one of the seven better-known candidates — including those two — could win the Feb. 26 primary.

“It’s going to make a difference in the Illinois delegation, certainly,” said Richard Pearson, ISRA’s executive director. “One 435th of a vote? We’ll take it.”

The primary victor will likely become a member of Congress from this heavily Democratic district. Jackson, a Democrat, represented the area for eight terms until he resigned in November amid a federal inquiry probing his alleged use of campaign funds for personal purchases.

The 2nd District includes mostly urban turf on the Chicago’s south side but stretches down along the Indiana border and includes rural Kankakee County. A diverse district invited a diverse field of candidates and an unpredictable race.

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