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U.S. Rep. Underwood talks gun background checks, climate at Sycamore town hall

February 20, 2019

SYCAMORE – Ken Matykiewicz of Sycamore is a former union carpenter who has since retired. As a result, he said, he has a vested interest in issues such as health care and Social Security.

Matykiewicz, 67, said he is optimistic about the future after hearing U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood address those concerns among others during her third town hall meeting in four days and after she was sworn into Congress on Jan. 3.

“Our past representative wouldn’t address our concerns,” Matykiewicz said, referring to former Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren.

Matykiewicz’s comments came after Underwood spoke during a town hall meeting Tuesday night at Sycamore High School. The Sycamore event followed a similar town hall Saturday at Batavia City Hall and a shared town hall with U.S. Rep. Sean Casten on Monday at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake.

Underwood, a Democrat, gave an update on what is happening in Congress, including touching on the end of the federal government shutdown and it affecting a lot of people within her district. She also addressed issues and bills she is working on, including guaranteed paid family leave that goes beyond just the employment guarantee that’s currently in place, topics related to the southern border with resources and not a physical barrier, and ways to address climate change and how it might affect the Midwest.

Underwood also said she and her office are working on passing House Resolution 8, a bill that would mandate universal background checks for all gun purchases in the U.S., in light of the 11th anniversary of the mass shooting at Northern Illinois University and the first anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, as well as the mass shooting at Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora on Friday.

“I certainly am committed to make sure that these do not continue to happen, that children do not continue to fear going to school, that we don’t have workers fearing that a gunman will come in at their job,” Underwood said.

Underwood, a co-sponsor for the bill, said the country is being affected by gun violence, and that a law such as this would be the first step to undertake on the federal level. She said she will vote yes to the bill before it goes to the Senate floor next week.

“It’s my hope that the president also will have the courage to sign it,” Underwood said.

Underwood also addressed the opioid crisis, saying that a law-enforcement-only policy does not work and that more resources have to be devoted to addressing that problem.

Sycamore Police Chief Jim Winters said he thinks what Underwood said about the approach to the opioid epidemic is accurate, and that it can’t only be law enforcement addressing the problem.

“It has to be a community approach through treatment and through education,” Winters said.

Underwood said her district represents seven counties, and she has heard different problems being brought up in different areas of her district – such as when she took 30 minutes to talk about climate change in McHenry County. She said it’s really important to hear what people have to say, and talking to constituents at events like these is part of the fun as a representative.

“I can’t be a true representative if I don’t talk about the issues of the people I represent,” Underwood said.

Especially after witnessing Underwood win the election and her willingness to address constituents’ concerns, Matykiewicz said, he is glad that Underwood is on the federal education and labor committee.

“I have more hope today after what I saw in 2018,” Matykiewicz said. “We just need to follow up on it, really.”