Advocates Urge Illinois Lawmakers to Pass ‘Karina’s Bill’ to Take Away Guns From Accused Abusers

State Sen. Celina Villanueva speaks at a news conference about “Karina’s Bill” on Jan. 24, 2024. (Amanda Vinicky / WTTW News)State Sen. Celina Villanueva speaks at a news conference about “Karina’s Bill” on Jan. 24, 2024. (Amanda Vinicky / WTTW News)

Daniela Alvarez was a joyous, intelligent and lively teenager who loved music, according to her cousin, Monica Alvarez.

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Daniela was a 15-year-old who loved Megamee and Boo, her two cats, and who planned to spend last summer perfecting Cumbia dance moves, going to Six Flags Great America and having sleepovers.

“So many aspirations and dreams,” Monica Alvarez said. “Such a bright future. Unfortunately, Daniela will never get to fulfill her dreams.”

Daniela was killed July 3 along with her mother, Karina Gonzalez, in their Little Village home.

Daniela’s father, Gonzalez’s husband, Jose Alvarez, was charged with their murders.

Monica Alvarez said Gonzalez was a “warrior” who “always kept her spirits up” even when things seemed impossible.

“Karina was a mother who wanted the best for her children, did everything to keep them safe,” Monica Alvarez said.

That included getting an order of protection against her husband. It was supposed to have meant he lost his Firearm Owners Identification card, but no steps were taken to make sure he gave up his guns.

“Karina’s Bill” is domestic violence advocates’ answer to protecting victims in the future.

When a victim is granted an order of protection that includes what’s known as the “firearm remedy” — a court order that temporarily strips someone of their right to own a gun — the proposal (House Bill 4469 / Senate Bill 2633) would require a court to issue a search warrant that would enable law enforcement to seize the alleged abuser’s firearms, and give a judge the ability to require police to execute the warrant within 96 hours.

“Without this law, Illinois is putting targets on the backs of domestic violence survivors,” said Yolanda Androzzo, the director of the gun control advocacy group One Aim Illinois.

Advocates said that as it stands, courts and law enforcement inconsistently apply the firearm remedy, too often leaving those under orders of protection with lethal weapons.

“An order of protection is intended to be trauma-informed, a one-stop shop for a domestic violence survivor to get the relief they need when they need it most,” said Amanda Pyron, director of the The Network, which advocates against domestic violence. “An order of protection revokes an abusers’ Firearm Owners Identification card, but that does nothing to get the gun out of the house.”

Karina’s Bill “strengthens and clarifies the law to give clear guidance” and “closes loopholes and improves definitions in state law to prevent guns from falling through the cracks,” Pyron said.

She said when a victim chooses to leave is the “most dangerous” time for a family, because an abuser is likely to feel control slipping.

Gun rights advocates said they support the idea in theory.

“ISRA does not believe that those that are abusing their family, and in essence committing felonies, should be around firearms,” Illinois State Rifle Association lobbyist Ed Sullivan said.

But Sullivan said problems exist with how advocates hope to meet that objective.

He cited due process considerations, given that orders of protection are granted ex parte — when alleged abusers aren’t in court with an opportunity to defend themselves.

Sullivan said because those under firearm remedies would be mandated to give their guns to law enforcement, it could ultimately lead to a scenario in which guns would be confiscated permanently, and with the potential for a court to order them destroyed rather than returned or given to a relative.

Sullivan said his own collection has guns passed down from his grandfather and great-grandfather that hold sentimental value; other gun owners may have “a couple hundred thousand dollars’ worth of firearms.”

“In essence, an inheritance,” Sullivan said. “It’s someone’s property you’re going to potentially have destroyed.”

Large gun collections also present a practical problem, with law enforcement questioning what they’re to do with guns once they’re seized.

Sheriffs had previously also voiced other concerns, including dangers to officers charged with executing search warrants and removing guns.

Law enforcement made its frustrations known when advocates first advanced the proposal (House Bill 676) last spring.

Following Daniela Alvarez and Karina Gonzalez’s deaths, legislators unsuccessfully made a push for the General Assembly to move on the bill during the fall veto session, with votes in particular lacking in the state Senate.

Sponsoring state Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, said she’s tired of hearing about gun tragedies that “could have been prevented by us acting in the Illinois legislature.”

“Damn if I’m not pissed off that we can’t get this done,” Villanueva said.

The advocates’ latest push for action comes as the legislative session gets underway, and after a spate of alleged domestic violence homicides, including a Tinley Park man accused of killing his wife and three daughters last weekend and a man who allegedly killed a woman last week in the Back of the Yards neighborhood following a domestic disturbance.

There are other victims — Jailene Flores last July, Adriana Lopez in October, Maria Roque in December.

“These women had orders of protection against their killers,” Pyron said. “They had done everything available to them to safeguard themselves and their children. And the system failed them.”

But the new round of advocacy also comes as Illinois is in election season, with a primary set for March 19.

Gun measures are notoriously difficult to pass, even with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to put the sway of the governor’s office behind the effort.

“We need the governor to speak up and put his support behind this, even before it gets to his desk,” Ford said. “We need the governor to make a statement and support this.”

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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