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‘Is the world safer or more dangerous’: Rep. Sean Casten asks, saying there’s more work to do on gun violence

A day after the U.S. House of Representatives backed a ban on high-powered weapons, Rep. Sean Casten said the fight against gun violence should focus on addressing the vast number of guns already in circulation and how the Second Amendment is interpreted.

The Downers Grove Democrat hosted a virtual town hall meeting Saturday with activist Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

About 180 people joined the virtual meeting, which lasted about an hour and had a Q&A.

“Ultimately, we have to judge ourselves as members of Congress ... as Americans by when our time is done here, is the world safer or more dangerous than when we got here?” Casten said after the town hall meeting. “As long as we’re unhappy with that answer, we’ve got more work to do.”

Casten did not express much hope that a ban on some semi-automatic guns would pass the Senate, where it could be held up by filibuster.

Guttenberg, who has attended the death penalty trial of the shooter who killed his daughter and 16 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, encouraged people interested in addressing gun violence to vote in the November election.

“This is the election of a lifetime,” Guttenberg said. “America has the ability to reduce gun violence. We can seriously reduce this.”

Casten said that while weapons bans, expanded background checks and other restrictions can help prevent gun violence, eventually the number of guns already in circulation, which he estimated was about 20 million, must be addressed.

“We have done the things that are popular,” he said alluding to various restrictions. “We have to have a really hard conversation ... that says, what do you do about the fact that we already live in a country with 400 million guns? We have more guns than people in the United States.”

Additionally, Casten said how the courts have interpreted the Second Amendment also must be addressed.

“We have to have a much more honest conversation about what our founders intended with the Second Amendment,” he said. “The court system is the primary agent of a lot of death in this country.”

Casten said he supports local efforts, such as Naperville’s proposed ban on high-powered weapons and high-capacity magazines, and Illinois’ strict gun laws. However, he said, those gun laws can do little if neighboring states have more lax laws.