Kids are traumatized from gun violence in Chicago and a new lawsuit says it's the governor's fault

A class-action lawsuit claims the state is violating the civil rights of children by failing to enact gun legislation.
October 5, 2018, 4:38pm

Chicago residents are sick of the gun violence that has gripped their city for the last few years, so they’re suing the governor and the state for failing to implement gun control.

In a civil rights class-action suit filed earlier this week, Chicagoans accuse the State of Illinois and Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, of violating the civil rights of children, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act, for failing to enact policies that would limit the flow of guns into the state and keep them out of the hands of criminals.

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It’s a novel approach. Experts told The Trace that it’s the first time to their knowledge that someone has sued a state citing violations of the American Disabilities Act for the psychological impact of gun violence.

“We all know that crime guns are flooding into our city and killing our children,” Tom Geoghegan, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told reporters earlier this week, according to The Trace. “But it’s also destroying – emotionally, psychologically, in the most profound ways – the survivors, the children who are not left dead by this epidemic of violence.”

Read: This tiny town tried to ban assault weapons. Then came the NRA

Plaintiffs are saying Rauner needs to impose stricter rules on gun dealers, to ensure that they’re not selling them to the wrong people. Proposed requirements include mandatory background checks on employees at businesses that sell guns, installing video cameras to record all sales, and routine state inspections to make sure that they’re abiding by state laws.

The suit cites scientific research showing that children who are repeatedly exposed to gun violence exhibit symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.

A report last year found that 40 percent of the 27,000 guns seized by Chicago police from 2013 to 2016 were sold by Illinois gun dealers.

As noted by The Trace, the law firm representing the plaintiffs has experience in this arena, albeit on a more local level. In 2015, Geoghegan’s firm settled a civil rights suit on behalf of Coalition for Safe Chicago Communities with three municipalities outside Chicago. As a result of the settlement, one of the towns passed an ordinance mandating their local gun store to report suspicious activity and keep better records on sales.

Chicago was one of a handful of cities that experienced soaring gun violence and homicide rates in recent years. In 2016 alone, there were more than 4,000 shootings leading to 722 deaths in Chicago. That dropped last year to 625 shooting deaths. And thus far in 2018, 383 people have been killed by guns in Chicago.

Giffords Law Center, which grades states based on the strength of their gun laws, gives Illinois a B+ and says it has the eighth-strongest laws in the country.

Cover: Protesters march down streets in Chicago Thursday to draw attention to the city's gun violence, briefly shutting down a major highway during rush hour, in Chicago, United States on August 02, 2018. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)