The guardians of children who were diagnosed with PTSD stemming from exposure to gun violence are suing the state of Illinois for stricter gun control measures.

Two mothers and one grandmother in Illinois are taking on the state of Illinois and fighting for stricter gun control measures. The three women filed a class-action lawsuit on Wednesday alleging Illinois’ failure to stem the flow of guns in the state disproportionately affect black children and black communities.

The women are guardians of three African-American children who are also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit (the names are withheld) and accuse Illinois, the Illinois Department of State Police and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Civil Rights Act.

According to the lawsuit, 40 percent of guns used in gun-related crime in Chicago are purchased at gun shops outside of the city of Chicago in the nearby suburbs and most are bought at seven gun shops named in the suit. The lawsuit states gun trafficking and violence could be easily and reasonably curbed.

“Under current law, and without cost, the Illinois Department of State Police can adopt reasonable regulations that would curtail the gun trafficking by these gun shops, and thereby reduce the gun violence in Chicago, and in turn reduce the terrible effect such gun violence has on the African-American children bringing this case.

“The defendants’ failure to adopt these reasonable regulations constitutes a violation of Title II of the ADA, in that they are failing to offer a reasonable accommodation for the disabilities these plaintiff children suffer and a violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act, in that the ongoing gun violence, which defendants can curb, has an adverse impact on these African-American children, thus violating their civil rights,” the lawsuit states.

Chicago Gun Violence Results in Childhood PTSD

The lawsuit is brought on behalf of African-American children under eighteen who live or have lived in Chicago and are “disabled under the terms of the ADA” or “at risk of becoming disabled” as a result of their exposure to gun violence.

Eighty percent of homicide and shooting victims in Chicago are African-American and twenty percent of shootings involve teenagers or younger children according to the lawsuit, but African-American’s make up only one-third of Chicago’s population.

The children and grandchildren of the women bringing forth the lawsuit have all been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of losing close family members to gun violence and in some cases witnessing the shootings themselves. The children’s guardians also claim the children grew up in an environment where they experienced gun violence regularly which contributed to their PTSD.

“When a child, particularly a young child, is exposed to gun violence, there is a dramatic and lasting impairment of the child’s basic life activities,” the lawsuit states. “This includes deficits in the child’s ability to care for himself or herself, the child’s sleep, reading abilities, learning capacity, concentration, thinking and communication. As a result of these deficits, gun violence directly undermines the child’s academic performance and his or her educational opportunities.”

Lawsuit Lists Steps Illinois Could Take to Prevent Gun Violence

The lawsuit outlines 12 steps that Illinois could take without changing existing Illinois law and also lists multiple studies which support their claim that meaningful regulation of gun markets will reduce the number of guns available and thus, the number of gun-related crimes.

Some of the steps the lawsuit recommends are:

  • Conducting background checks on all gun store and gun show employees
  • Installing video recorders at the point of sale in gun stores to discourage traffickers, the use of fake IDs, and assist lawmakers to identify “straw purchasers of ‘crime guns'”
  • Train employees and managers of gun stores techniques to identify straw purchasers
  • Not allowing the sale of a gun to a person whom the gun dealer knows is not purchasing the gun for their use but rather to quickly transfer it to another individual
  • To maintain an alphabetical list of gun sales where the gun was later used in a crime and to prohibit the purchaser of the crime gun from purchasing another gun unless they properly transferred the gun ownership or filed a loss or theft report

According to Courthouse News, Illinois gun dealers are required by law to be licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF); however, the lawsuit alleges the ATF does little to monitor the sale of guns in these stores.

“As a matter of law,” the complaint says, “the regulation of gun trafficking in Illinois is a state matter, over which the state of Illinois has claimed preemption.”

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