Law-abiding African Americans and Hispanics would take it on the chin under a bill now moving through the Illinois General Assembly. Sponsored by Rep. Harry Osterman (D-14), HB6123 would prohibit any person or entity from selling a firearm to a so-called “street gang member.” This prohibition applies even if the individual has passed a Brady Law FBI background check. Making a prohibited sale would result in Class 1 felony charges and possible jail time for the seller. Although the ISRA supports genuine efforts to curb criminal violence, the organization is strongly opposed to HB6123 as the bill’s provisions are arbitrary and pose an unreasonable intrusion on the rights of law-abiding Illinois citizens.
“HB6123 promotes racial profiling at its worst,” commented ISRA Executive Director, Richard Pearson. “Popular culture has branded urban minorities with the ‘gangsta’ stereotype that is pervasive well beyond the confines of actual criminal enterprises. Today’s fashion, music, slang and lifestyle are all heavily influenced by the urban experience. Given that the provisions of HB6123 establish no test for determining ‘street gang’ membership, and given the harsh penalties for violating the proposed law, it is understandable that retailers would shy away from selling firearms to persons whose speech, dress, mannerisms, or taste in music reflect the urban lifestyle.”
“Several Chicago nightclubs stirred considerable controversy recently when they denied entry to young men wearing baggy pants and cornrows in their hair,” continued Pearson. “The nightclub owners justified these actions by claiming that baggy pants and certain hair styles are indicative of gang membership – despite the fact that the young men had done nothing improper. While the popular press bristled over the nightclubs’ actions, the press has ignored HB6123 although the bill would bless, and even require firearm retailers to discriminate against individuals based on their appearance. This sort of cultural profiling is vile enough when persons are denied entry into a private club, but denying one’s constitutional rights based solely on their appearance flies in the face of the principles under which our nation was founded. Of course, if a gang member wished to purchase a firearm, all he would have to do is don a Brooks Brothers’ suit and speak the King’s English and he’d be good to go.”
“The bottom line is this,” said Pearson. “If HB6123 is passed into law, the calendar on race-relations will be turned back 70 years and there will not be a gun shop in the state that will sell a firearm to an African American or Hispanic person. If that’s Rep. Osterman’s intent, then he has a lot of explaining to do.”
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