Monday, July 01, 2013

Quinn signs school safety bill, expects to act 'shortly' on carry

By Jamey Dunn

Gov. Pat Quinn today signed legislation that requires Illinois schools to conduct safety drills to prepare for the possibility of a shooting.

The December shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed, began a push in Illinois to ensure that schools are considering security as part of their safety plans. Senate Bill 1625 requires schools to add a drill for a “shooting incident” to their annual safety drills, which currently include evacuations and severe weather preparation. “Unfortunately, today we must prepare not only for acts of nature but acts of violence,” said Chicago Democratic Sen. Jacqueline Collins, who sponsored the bill. Local law enforcement will be involved in the shooting drills.

“I think all of us were horrified by a terrible tragedy that occurred in our country at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Conn.,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in Oak Park today. “It was a horrific tragedy that we need to take notice of and do something about.” After the Sandy Hook shooting, Quinn held a school safety summit that included law enforcement officials, education representatives and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. SB 1625 was a product of those discussions. “It’s very sad that we have to have a drill, but I think it is necessary,” said Illinois Education Association president Cinda Klickna, who participated in the summit. Klickna said many schools already have a plan in place for acts of violence. “Sometimes, there are schools that actually have a walk through [for police and emergency responders] so that everybody knows what the school looks like. ... The more that there is that conversation and understanding of that school setting, the better off you are.” She said, however, that some districts have a plan on file but have not conducted drills. The measure does allow flexibility for local districts to work with police and craft their own responses. “It’s a local enterprise between local law enforcement and the local school district,” Quinn said.

Klickna said the new law would bring some consistency across the state by ensuring that each school has a drill that teachers, staff and first responders have practiced. “I think if I were still in the classroom, I would really want to know what I was supposed to do,” she said. “Let’s just hope that we never really have to use the plan, but it’s always better to have a plan.”

Quinn has cited the Sandy Hook shooting several times this year in his calls for gun control measures, such as a ban on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Parents of Sandy Hook victims came to Springfield to lobby for a high-capacity magazine ban, but the bill fell short in the Senate. Some Statehouse observers predict that Quinn will use his veto pen to write one or both provisions into a concealed carry bill that lawmakers approved on the last day of their spring session. A federal court overturned the state’s ban on concealed carry and gave lawmakers until July 9 to approve legislation regulating the carry of firearms in the state. Quinn would not give any details today, but he said he would act on the bill soon. “It’s imminent. I’ll act on that very shortly, so stay tuned.”

Quinn also set July 9 as the deadline for lawmakers to return to Springfield to take up pension reform legislation. A committee that is working to produce a compromise met last week and has another hearing scheduled on Wednesday. If Quinn vetoes the carry bill, legislators could act on his veto next week.

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