Clergy deliver 50,000 petitions to Quinn on “Advocacy Day”
By Chinta Strausberg
Saying they are tired of going to funerals, a multi-racial coalition of anti-violence organizations Thursday held a rally in Springfield urging lawmakers to pass the commonsense gun bill with Father Michael L. Pfleger vowing to vote against those who oppose this reform legislation.
Referring to several lawmakers who refused to meet with him, Pfleger, who brought two busloads of supporters wearing blue shirts that said, “Standing Together for Common Sense Gun Laws! Illinois Advocacy Day,” said, “I knew they wouldn’t see us because they don’t ever want to face those who challenge them.”
Referring to Republican House Minority Leader Tom Cross, Pfleger said, “He was in the office, and he said he was going to come out and then he would not come out. That’s what they do. They hide because there is no way in the world they can justify not registering guns and not banning assault weapons. They don’t want to talk.
“But, Cross and all the others who are fighting against us have to understand they are fighting against 95 percent of the people of Illinois, and if they’re not going to vote for us, we’re going to make sure nobody votes for them,” vowed Father Pfleger.
But before leaving Chicago, two busses pulled up to Saint Sabina Church where Pfleger had Pastor Ira Acree, from Greater St. John Bible Church on the West Side minister, to lead supporters in prayer. Saint Sabina partnered with several groups including the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICAHV) headed by executive director Colleen Daley who organized the rally.
His supporters arrived in Springfield armed with signs that read, “Connecticut protected their children, what will Illinois Do”? and “Legislators Protect Our Children! Pass Responsible Gun Laws.” Some were in wheelchairs or walkers.
Father Pfleger who was flanked by Gov. Pat Quinn, State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), clergy and a number of elected officials, spoke at a press conference held on the steps of the State Capitol.
Placing two boxes of signed petitions in front of the podium, Father Pfleger recalled a recent news report about an elephant that was shot in a drive-by in Mississippi. “It was a federal offense, and it was a $16,000 reward to see who shot the elephant….
“A child was killed last night in Chicago and another one wounded on 112th and it’s not a federal offense and there is no strong gun legislation and nobody knows yet how the other child is doing,”
Pfleger said presenting more than 50,000 petitions to Gov. Quinn. However, Pfleger made it clear that the 50,000 petitions but were “a piece of the 95 percent of Illinois residents who want background checks, 82 percent who support registering guns, titling guns like cars…. These are just a small percentage of what all Illinois want.”
Referring to Newtown, Connecticut shooting where Adam Lanza, 20, massacred 20 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and 6 adults, Pfleger said, “Connecticut responded when their children got killed.” He said they want the legislature to support Gov. Quinn in his push to get commonsense gun legislation passed.
Included in the coalition were, Gov. Quinn, Bishop Christopher Epting, the assisting bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, Pastor Acree, Rev. B. Herbert Martin, Rev. Larry Martin, Hope Church Chicago, Marcinia Richards, executive director of the Peace Coalition Against Violence at Saint Sabina, State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), Senator Napoleon Harris (D-15th), Senator Dan Kotowski (D-33), Senator Don Harmon (D-39th), State Rep. Esther Golar (D-6th), Ald. Lona Lane (18th), Pam Bosley, from Purpose Over Pain, activist Camiella D. Williams, representatives from The Voices of the Surviving Siblings, and others appealed to those lawmakers who are opposed to the legislation “to do the right thing” and pass the commonsense gun bill.
In giving the invocation, Pastor Acree sent a message to the lawmakers, “We know they have the power of the pen to put in some commonsense gun legislation. We pray that you will make Illinois a model for the rest of the country as we end this epidemic of senseless violence.”
Addressing the crowd, Gov. Quinn turned and looked at the statue of Abraham Lincoln quoting the president remarks he gave in Gettysburg, Penn. on November 19, 1863. “Abraham Lincoln believed in the power of petitions, the power of every day people….” Quinn said the petitions he received “come from the hearts of the people of Illinois” and that there are many “devoted legislators who are committed to the cause of gun safety” like Senator Collins and Senator Harmon.
“What we have to do in the best tradition of Abraham Lincoln’s democracy is to listen to what people are saying all over our state, all over our country that it’s time for gun safety legislation,” Quinn bellowed.
Holding up one of the bills, Quinn said, “We have to make sure we limit high capacity ammunition magazines.”
Quinn told of one mother who lost her son in the Newtown shooting. “She said the killer had 300 bullets. He fired 154 shots in four-minutes because he had a high capacity magazine.” “If you save one life, you save the whole world….” “We’re tired of going to funerals.”
Kotowski told the crowd: “This is the last unregulated consumer industry in the United States of America. Teddy Bears are more regulated than guns. Teddy Bears are tested for sharp edges…. How many children died from Teddy Bears last year? He said the government took steps to protect the children and asked why can’t they do the same thing with guns.
Bishop Epting said more than 3300 people have been killed in the U.S. by gun violence. Hoping that the senators would pass one of the strongest bills in the nation. “We ought to limit guns in places like schools, stadiums, government building and public transportation.
“We must balance the Second Amendment with the rights we have to live in peace and free fear of another life lost to gun violence,” Bishop Epting said.
Representing the Voices of the Surviving Siblings, Victor Velante, 21, whose brother was murdered at the age of 17 at a party, said, “I demand that concealed weapons be banned at public places like casinos” and places that serve alcohol. Others like Debbie Velazquez, 13, in his group told of how her friend was killed when she was 7-years-old. One brother was killed at a gas station when she was 7-years. She wants weapons banned on the CTA.
Holding a sign that said, “Loose guns equals lost lives,” Sandy Baksys said she stands in solidarity with those who have been shot. “I’ve been more upset after every massacre, and I finally couldn’t take it after Newtown, Connecticut…. People have to be heard. There is a silent majority…. This is a public safety issue….” Ted Gieto, a consulting engineer in Springfield, held a sign that said, “Love thy neighbor, not thy gun.”
The crowd shouted, “We deserve a future” prompting Senator Don Harmon (D-39th) to say, “Oak Park has a long and proud tradition for standing for commonsense gun safety laws, and we’re not ready to back down.” He said the focus should be making the children and the community’s safe.
ICAHV Director Daley said commonsense gun laws saves lives, and Rep. Golar, who introduced the commonsense gun bill, sang a song of victory predicting her peers will pass the legislation.
Senator Collins said, “We know every 30-minutes a child or a teen is shot by gun violence, and every 3-hours a child or youth dies from gun violence. We have lost in Chicago more kids to gun violence than soldiers in Iraq. It’s time now to say stop the violence….”
“If America and Illinois can’t stand up for our children, black, white and brown, they don’t stand for anything,” Collins said.
Senator Harris said, “Too many of our children are being gunned down in our streets in our neighborhoods and someone has to take charge and take a stand to protect our children.”
Senator Harris acknowledged “Moms Demand Action” and the many signs of protest. “The time is now for legislators to make a change. Enough is enough. We don’t want our streets to be like the war zones in Iraq or Afghanistan…. We want our streets safe, and we want to stop going to funerals and start going to more graduations. We demand it…,” Senator Harris said.
Rev. B. Herbert Martin, pastor of the Progressive Community Center Church and a member of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, said, in Bronzeville where his church is located “we have seen too much death and dying of children. Too many mothers and fathers following caskets to the cemeteries. It should be in reverse. Children should bury their parents….”
Rev. Martin referred to a similar fight in Washington where the Senate voted 68-31 to begin debating on a gun bill that will include background checks. The filibuster has ended and the debates are now beginning.
In the interim, Mary Long, one of the mothers at the Springfield rally who lost her son, Eric Williams, 25, on March 12, 2012 as he came out of Shark’s Chicken at 79th and Ingleside, wants the bill passed.
Her son was shot seven times. “The case has not been solved yet. I want the lawmakers to know that we’re not going to stand for them not representing them. I don’t understand what’s hard about commonsense….”
On Father Pfleger’s busses supporters passed out talking points and instructions on lobbying legislators who are opposed to commonsense gun laws.
Referring to the December 2012 7th Circuit Court of Appellate ruling giving the Illinois General Assembly 180-days to implement some form of concealed carry legislation, the Illinois Council on Handgun Against Violence (ICHV) joined Pfleger in his fight to lobby lawmakers to do the right thing and pass a bill he hopes will reduce violence and homicides in Chicago.
Pfleger and ICHV are demanding that any legislation proposed should allow local law enforcement to control who gets a permit, better known as a “May” issue. They also want included in the bill a provision asking the applicant to provide a “good cause” for wanting a gun.
Other provisions sought by Pfleger and the commonsense advocates include: universal background checks on all gun purchases and transfers, reporting of lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement and titling guns like cars.
But they also are demanding that any legislation include the banning of guns in the following places: stadiums, casinos, public transportation college campuses and all schools, at festivals and street fairs and places that serve alcohol.
They are also demanding that there be no reciprocity of carry permits with other states. A recent polls show that 95 percent of Illinois voters support a background check on the sale of every gun, 93 percent support mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns, 82 percent support registering guns and 78 percent agree those wanting a gun permit should have a good cause.
Photo: Chinta Strausberg
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.