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Local

Mother of slain St. Charles girls speaks up for stronger gun laws

Anjum Coffland speaks at Friday's Wear Orange event

ST. CHARLES – Anjum Coffland believes if gun laws were stricter, her 16-year-old twin daughters would still be alive today.

Her estranged husband, Randall Coffland, shot and killed them in 2017 before taking his own life. They were living apart in St. Charles

"I really want the laws to be changed," she said on Friday during a Wear Orange event at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles hosted by the Kane and Kendall County group of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "It's so easy to get a gun with a FOID card. My husband had it in 72 hours without being checked to see what is going on in his life. He was seeing a therapist. He was on an antidepressant. He was abusing alcohol. And all this happened because we were separating and he didn't want me to leave."

Orange is the color that Hadiya Pendleton's friends wore in her honor after she was shot and killed in Chicago at the age of 15 — just one week after performing in President Obama's second inaugural parade in 2013.

Anjum Coffland said she was invited by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to tell her story at the event. Coffland said she believes the waiting period to purchase a gun should be longer than 72 hours.

In Illinois, gun control laws prohibit the sale, use, or possession of certain weapons outright, including fully automatic machine guns, armor-piercing bullets, and silencers. For other weapons allowed in the state, state law imposes a three-day (72 hour) waiting period for prospective gun buyers.

"Make the waiting period a week, maybe two weeks before you can just buy a gun," she said. "It shouldn't be that quick, a 72-hour turnaround."

Also speaking at the event was Everytown Survivor Fellow Alicia Schemel. Her father was shot and killed in Chicago while on his way to pick her up from work.

"His murder is unsolved," she said. "It's been almost 20 years now. No arrest was ever made."

Schemel said she doesn't want anyone else to experience the horror of what she has gone through.

"This weekend – Wear Orange – we get together to celebrate each other and to kind of uplift our spirits," she said.

Wear Orange Weekend started on Gun Violence Awareness Day, which was June 7. She emphasized they are not trying to take guns away from anyone.

"We're not trying to take anyone's gun away, but there are people out there who really should not have access to a gun," Schemel said.

In February, a gunman shot and killed five of his co-workers at Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora and wounded five Aurora police officers. He had his Firearm Owner's Identification card revoked and was illegally in possession of firearms.

Schemel is working on legislation that would address the loopholes in the existing gun licensing system.

"There's a new law out there that we're trying to enact," she said. "It's passed the House but has not passed the Senate. Next legislative session, we will bring this bill back to the Senate to hopefully get passed. What this bill does is close the loopholes that are out there."

Currently, a FOID card is valid for 10 years and an individual is able to buy an unlimited number of guns under the authority of that card. Schemel said she would like to see that changed.

"During that time, your mental health and life could change dramatically," she said. "So FOID cards should be renewed every five years and you should need to be fingerprinted in order to get a FOID card. We require fingerprints for so many things and not to get a weapon? That's ridiculous."

Proponents who want to require FOID applicants to submit fingerprints say that it will help ensure that an accurate criminal history can be ascertained at the time of the application. St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina, who attended Friday's event, said he would favor such legislation.

Rogina noted those individuals applying to the city for a liquor license have to be fingerprinted.

"It's common sense," he said. "Anybody should not have a problem with common sense regulations. We're not challenging the Second Amendment."

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