Illinois lawmakers look into root causes of violence following latest national incidents

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 4:29 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - As the country recover’s from the latest mass shooting, Illinois lawmakers are investigating the root causes of gun violence to prevent it in their own state.

The Ulvade and Buffalo shootings cast a shadow over the meeting’s proceedings, with the conversation starting on how people can bring up the topic with others and process events like gun violence.

“We have more mass shootings in this country than we have days of the year,” Rep. Maura Hirschauer (D - Batavia) said. “So we could have this task force meeting at any point in the year and communities would be reeling from a mass shooting.”

The Public Safety and Violence Prevention Committee heard from dozens of experts and community members on what may help prevent gun violence in the state. Namely, better access to mental health resources and community services.

The task force touched upon several aspects of the issue, speaking with experts trying to get more mental health professionals in the field to those who have received services and found them helpful or lacking in processing their trauma. Without those resources, those community experts say affected youth look elsewhere -- like to media -- and find messaging that encourages more violence.

“A lot of the young people are at the forefront of the violence. It’s the music they’re listening to and it’s the energy and times that we’re in,” Youth Leader at Communities United and survivor of gun violence Tree Brown said. “So we really need a lot of resources for them and we’re fresh off COVID, so a lot of them have been in the house, cooped up.”

Even when victims seek out therapy, Brown said it was hard to find someone he felt understood his situation. Several other experts agreed that having more mental health professionals that reflect the communities they live in would provide better resources to youth. Brown also wants to see more survivors join the cause of helping others.

“My mental state really changed,” Brown continued. “I did not get any serious mental health help, I really saw no purpose of even going deeply into what I was really thinking about.”

The task force did not take any legislative action at this meeting. The purpose was purely exploratory in finding the root causes of violence that are not obviously available. However, many of the groups speaking asked for action to come soon.

“We have to find a solution,” 19-year-old and Chicago Youth Program representative Ernest Willingham said. “We’ve spent a lot of time discussing about how we can find the problem but there hasn’t been enough time actually implementing a solution to fix the problem.”

The General Assembly did create some task forces for youth mental health. They also launched a pilot program to better tie mental and social work services to police work, known as the co-responder program.

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