Kinzinger moves to break gun-control impasse

‘Both sides are right, and both sides are wrong,’ says GOP congressman

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger addresses the National Security Institute. (Rep. Adam Kinzinger)

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger addresses the National Security Institute. (Rep. Adam Kinzinger)

By Ted Cox

A Republican Illinois congressman is moving to break the congressional impasse on gun control.

In the wake of the weekend mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger ran an essay on the online website Medium stating: “We have a gun-violence epidemic, and to address it we need to change some laws and change some hearts.”

Fueled by contributions by the National Rifle Association, Republicans have been resistant to any sort of gun control, even after repeated mass shootings, while Democrats have used the incidents to argue for background checks on gun licenses and purchases and a ban on assault weapons. Kinzinger acknowledged: “Both sides of this debate mean well and are equally horrified when these tragedies occur. But instead of discussing real solutions, politics infects the discourse and distrust between each other becomes ever more pronounced. Both sides are right, and both sides are wrong.”

Kinzinger, of Channahon, came out in support of so-called red-flag laws, allowing guns to be confiscated from those deemed a threat to themselves and others. Then-Gov. Bruce Rauner signed such an Illinois law last year. But Kinzinger also endorsed background checks and a measure he acknowledged was “more controversial, but too important to shy away from any longer: raising the age of gun purchase to 21.”

The congressman also supported the increasingly common practice in the media of not naming the shooters in these incidents so as to not give them publicity — first suggested by Dave Cullen, author of “Columbine” and “Parkland.”

Earlier this year, Kinzinger held firm with Republicans in voting against a U.S. House resolution extending the review period on background checks from three to 10 days, but he voted in favor of an amendment calling for the FBI to report on the background checks it’s unable to complete in the allotted time. The legislation has not been taken up by the Senate.

Kinzinger served in the Middle East as a U.S. Air Force pilot and continues to serve in the U.S. National Guard.

Kinzinger suggested a return to religion would be helpful for some. “Violence is in the heart of these tragic shootings, and we cannot create laws to detect or deter evil,” he wrote. “This violence is whispered in ears, watched on television, played online through interactive games, and it grows into action. Whether it’s a mass shooting, domestic violence, or any other similar act, the reality is that evil exists. When people are told that there is no life after death, no accountability to God, and have no hope when life feels miserable, people succumb to the sadness, despair, and violence. We need to recognize this reality. It may offend some, but the denial of this reality is an affront to the very clear facts in front of us. It is a huge issue and banning guns will not change the underlying issues of evil, violence, and mental illness.”

Kinzinger did not back down from defending the Second Amendment, stating: “To be clear, I firmly believe in the right to keep and bear arms, legally.” He also reasserted his support for the right to carry concealed weapons if licensed to do so.

Yet he sounded a final call for reasonable legislation and compromise. “I believe if we actually take the steps of instituting universal background checks and raising the gun purchase age, if we can all recognize the existence of real evil and focus again on respecting each other, and for the love of God quit naming and showing the shooters, we can and will make a real impact.

“The choice is ours to move forward where we can find agreement in what we stand for, or we can continue to argue and let hate take over,” he added. “I hope we choose the former, I fear the latter, but I pray for us to come together as a nation.”