A group of area high school students who helped organize a town hall meeting last month tackling the issue of gun violence met with U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, at his West Chicago office May 5 to discuss their concerns.
Students from Glenbard West, Glenbard North, Glenbard South and Wheaton North high schools organized the April 7 town hall meeting at First United Methodist Church of Glen Ellyn, which was hosted by the Coalition for a Better Illinois 6th.
Roskam, congressman for the 6th District, was invited to attend the town hall meeting, but he declined because of a scheduling conflict. Roskam's Democratic challenger in the November general election, Sean Casten of Downers Grove, attended the meeting and answered questions from those in attendance.
Also at the meeting with Roskam were a group of students with opposing views who described themselves as being pro-Second Amendment rights.
"I had the pleasure of meeting with nine students from schools in the district that held a wide variety of viewpoints on gun safety issues," Roskam said in a statement following the meeting. "I hope the students left the meeting knowing that we found common ground and feeling like the meeting was as productive as I believe it was. Meeting with people from the district in this format gives me the opportunity to have in-depth and respectful discussions such as this one on issues that matter to us all. I encourage these students to stay engaged and informed on issues that they are passionate about like gun safety and am pleased that we were able to connect on such an important subject.”
Roskam has sponsored several pieces of legislation regarding gun safety, including co-sponsoring the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act to expand the mandatory background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or through classified ads. He also supports a ban on bump stocks and voted against the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow out-of-state individuals with no license, no permit and no training to carry a concealed weapon in Illinois.
The May 5 meeting with Roskam was not open to the news media. In a conference call after the meeting, Glenbard North junior Jeromel Lara, who was involved in planning the April 7 town hall meeting, said he and other students asked Roskam to push for closing the "boyfriend loophole" in background checks for guns.
"That would ensure that if there's an abusive relationship, their access to firearms is restricted," Lara said.
Other students also brought up the need for universal background checks to be put into place.
The students discussed the idea of arming teachers with Roskam as well.
"My understanding was that he did not think that was a good idea," Glenbard South sophomore Aliyah Gee said. "He did say, though, that it depended on the school district."
Veronica Vera, communications director for Roskam, said he doesn't think arming teachers is a good idea.
"However, he's not in favor of telling school districts how they should run their own schools," Vera said.
Lara said he was disappointed Roskam could not attend the April meeting.
"It's an issue that affects the whole community," he said. "Not just students going to school, but all of us."
The students who organized the town hall meeting have started a Facebook page, facebook.com/il06students.