Local activists unite to combat gun violence
U.S. Congressman Brad Schneider (D-10th) arrives Sunday for an event calling for gun violence accountability sponsored by United Power For Action and Justice at Chicago Sinai Congregation. | J.Geil ~ For Sun-Times Media
• All Saints’ Church will hold a “CROSSwalk” event to remember more than 800 children and youth who have been murdered in Chicago since 2008 and to “commit ourselves to ending this epidemic of violence.” The walk will begin at 6 p.m. March 22 at St. James Commons at Rush and Huron; arrive at 6:45 p.m. at Daley Plaza at Washington and Dearborn; arrive at 7:30 p.m. at Old Pat’s at Des Plaines and Adams; and arrive at 8:30 p.m. at Stroger Hospital at Harrison and Wood. For more information, access www.crosswalkchicago.org.
• A gun violence team “leverage meeting” will be held at 7 p.m. April 4 at Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park.
• April 11 has been declared “Springfield Advocacy Day” to push for pending gun violence legislation.
• A status meeting on United Power’s “30 Meetings in 60 Days” will be held at 2 p.m. May 19 at Chicago Sinai Congregation.
The Skokie Review next week will feature an active Skokie resident and her new group called People For a Safer Society.
Updated: April 22, 2013 11:05AM
There were heart-wrenching stories about the unimaginable devastation of gun violence, but the people telling them were not there just to tell stories.
They were not content with 500 people in the audience merely shaking their heads, dabbing their eyes and displaying empathy because of the tragedies they have had to endure.
This was a call to action with a common refrain from the hosting organization, United Power For Action and Justice: “We will not stand idly by.”
Based in many religious and social service organizations throughout Cook County, United Power has addressed difficult and thorny issues before – health care, housing and government reform among them. The gathering Sunday at Chicago Sinai Congregation in the city was a kickoff to a campaign that seeks accountability on gun violence.
Judi Goode of B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield has fought for this accountability for years; she is among the many who know personally about the life-long scars of gun violence, not only for those struck by bullets but those left behind as well.
“The death of one person affects so many,” she said.
Goode’s friend died at age 23 on July 1, 1977, shot by one of two boys who burst into Goode’s apartment foyer. When her friend, Patty, screamed, the gunman, only age 16, fired at her friend’s chest and then her back.
“We cradled her, we kissed her and we said our goodbyes,” Goode recounted.
She carries on her fight for gun violence accountability in Patty’s name.
Steve Young of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Evanston lost his 19-year-old son, Andrew, to gun violence in 1996. He was killed by a teenager with a semi-automatic weapon. The father recounted seeing Andrew on a table at St. Francis Hospital with a hole in his heart that could not be repaired.
He detailed the impact Andrew’s sudden death had on family and friends, changing their lives forever. “You can’t put a number on this cost,” he said.
Michael Beyer, principal of Morrill Math & Science elementary school on the South Side of Chicago, has known several students shot by gunmen. A 7-year-old first grader was hit in broad daylight while eating ice cream on his porch; he survived, but his life drastically changed.
“Nearly every child in our school has lost a loved one to gun violence or has personally witnessed gun violence,” he said. “The cycle of poverty is synonymous with the cycle of violence.”
Sunday’s event drew key local, state and national legislators who support efforts to organize around gun violence, a necessity, they say, in the face of powerful lobbies and opposition to meaningful gun legislation.
“We have to put together an action agenda,” said Gov. Pat Quinn, adding that the only way to defeat opponents to “common sense gun laws” is to organize.
As part of its strategy, United Power For Action is supporting proposed federal and state legislation.
U.S. Senate Bill 54, cosponsored by both Illinois senators, prohibits the trafficking and straw purchase of firearms, with violators facing up to 15 years imprisonment or 25 years if there was knowledge the firearm would be used for a violent crime.
U.S. Senate Bill 374 would require that all gun sales be subject to a background check and would close a loophole allowing for private sale of guns without accountability.
Illinois House Bill 1143 and Senate Bill 1171 would require background checks for all gun sales, including those in the private or secondary market.
Illinois House Bill 2592 would require reporting lost or stolen firearms; state licensing for anyone selling, leasing or transferring firearms; and registration of each firearm a person owns or possesses including point-of-sale registration for newly purchased firearms.
Pending legislation though is only one part of the group’s strategy. United Power is also calling for creating stronger relationships with like-minded others to persuade gun manufacturers and sellers to agree to what it calls a “Help Us Curb Gun Violence Pledge.”
“Part of stopping the carnage in our city of Chicago and throughout the country is to get the gun manufacturers and sellers to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem,” said Greg Pierce of United Power.
The group’s goal is to have 30 meetings over the next 60 days with potential allies “to see if we cannot leverage gun makers and sellers to become more responsible citizens.”
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) was one of several legislators Sunday who pledged support.
“I am in this fight with you,” she promised. “This time is different.”
Oak Park Village President David Pope said the biggest threat facing society is not necessarily gun violence but an attitude of indifference or “NMP” (not my problem). He said everyone must recognize that gun violence is all of our problems.
Chicago, of course, has been in the global spotlight for its recent rash of gun violence that has taken so many young lives. But the United Power campaign extends well beyond just the city and is receiving key support from activists in many Cook County suburbs.
Those activists Sunday came from Evanston, Skokie, Park Ridge, Oak Park and many other areas with representatives telling the large crowd how many people from their communities they brought with them. As they lined up, it was clear they had different backgrounds and starting points in life, but they were there together to deliver the very same message.
“We will not stand idly by.”