By Jason Maholy
The federal government is not going to ban assault weapons or take any firearms from Americans who legally own them, and the millions of immigrants who have entered the United States illegally most likely aren't going anywhere.
So said U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3, Western Springs) last Saturday while speaking to a group of roughly 50 people at a Town Hall meeting in Lockport's historic Central Square Building. The gathering gave people, the majority of them among the roughly 713,000 residents of the 3rd Congressional District, the chance to ask the congressman about his position on political issues and what he thinks can be done to resolve some of them.
Lipinski also held a Town Hall meeting attended by about 100 people later the same day at the Orland Township facility in Orland Park, where he was not the only person in the room to give a speech. In what was supposed to be a question-and-answer period with the fifth-term congressman, Lipinski listened more to speeches than he did field questions. The 75-minute session ultimately reached the point where the final statement came from one man who criticized many of the other attendees for making speeches rather than asking questions.
Topics addressed during the two Town Hall meetings included the postal service, the environment, military veterans, health care and federal subsidies to Big Oil. While Lipinski did not have definitive answers to any questions, he confidently declared during the Lockport session that the federal government will not be banning any firearms, including assault weapons.
"Nothing is going to be done, and I don't support anything, that is banning any type of gun or taking anyone's gun away," he said. "It's not going to happen."
Lipinski suggested strengthening background checks on people who wish to purchase firearms, and said he believes gun trafficking should be a federal offense. It is "easy to say we should ban assault weapons," especially after a tragedy such as the mass murder at Sandy Hook, he said; however, he does not support such a law and noted there is no clear definition of what an assault weapon is.
"It is not going to go anywhere in Washington," he said of any proposed assault weapon ban. "Don't worry about that, there is not going to be an assault ban."
Lipinski referenced an assault weapon ban imposed in 1994, and said he is not convinced that law has done anything to prevent people from getting such firearms or to curtail gun-related violence. He noted he is not a hunter and did not grow up around guns, but claimed he acquired a better understanding of people's passion for firearms while living in the south. Lipinski taught political science at the University of Tennessee from 2001 to 2004.
Lipinski also spoke candidly about illegal immigration, saying that the United States has afforded illegal immigrants "de facto amnesty" because of Congress' refusal to do anything about the matter. Many Republicans in Congress are reluctant to take any action regarding the 11 million or so people in the country illegally because they like that immigrants provide cheap labor, and Democrats want them here for "whatever reason - maybe to get more votes eventually," he said.
He acknowledged the federal government has no answer for illegal immigration at this time, and suggested it is almost a certainty that many if not most of the illegal immigrants already here are going to stay.
"There is no way that 11 million people, or however many are here illegally, are going to leave," he said.
Lipinski, who said 28 percent of residents in the 3rd Congressional District are Hispanic, opposes illegal alien amnesty or a pathway to citizenship. He cited an amnesty program initiated in 1986 during Ronald Reagan's administration, and said the measure failed because illegal immigrants were allowed to remain in the country and the government did not do enough to secure the borders or regulate the hiring of new undocumented workers.
"It is not fair for people who, just because they got here illegally or stayed over their visa illegally, to give them ability to come to the front and get citizenship," he said.
The congressman believes most illegal immigrants are here because they want to work and make a better life for their families, but that there are those who "come here to cause trouble, and get involved in crime, and may see hope of tricking the system to getting government benefits they should not be getting." He might consider voting to give some undocumented immigrants legal status, though not citizenship, if the federal government can establish a birthright law stating citizenship can be granted to someone born in the United States only if at least one of the child's parents is a citizen.
"Maybe if we could trade that off, maybe I'd be open to letting people who are here, who have a steady job, to legalize," he said. "If they have a real job they can keep the job, at real wages - not the wages below the minimum wages now they're being paid - maybe we can allow those people to stay.
"But nothing is going to be done to push everyone out of here."
Lipinski also discussed jobs and the federal deficit, which he called the two greatest problems facing America today. He made special mention of the middle class and its influence on the nation.
"The middle class, that's what made America great, was our strong middle class," he said. "The middle class is shrinking and we can't be a great nation if we don't have a strong middle class. That's something I really believe and something that I fight for. We heard so much during the presidential election about the middle class, [the candidates] would talk about the middle class, and I really believe, a lot of it was just talk."
Reducing the federal government's $16.4 trillion deficit is of the utmost importance, said Lipinski, who comfortably played the role of political science professor when using Greece as an example of how a country should not do business.
"We need to reduce our debt or we are not going to survive," he said. "We are not yet in the situation of Greece; we're not close to that, but we're going in that direction."
The lenders to whom the Geek government owes money to obtained so much power because of the country's debt that they began dictating to lawmakers what policies they were to enact, Lipinski explained.
"The people owed money to, those people started calling the shots and told Greece what they were going to do, what policies they were going to have," he said. "The people of Greece lost their sovereignty to say what they wanted their government to do, because the government owed so much money, [lenders] said that you have to do this or we're never going to lend you any more money."
The Regional News staff writer Jeff Vorva contributed to this story.
Nothing is going to be done... that is banning any type of gun. It's not going to happen.
- U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski