Puts lawmakers on notice, says violence #1 plague in America
By Chinta Strausberg
Vowing to collect more than 100,000 signatures calling for the reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons and passage of HB 5831 that title guns like cars, a diverse group of 100 faith leaders Tuesday said the â€œsleeping giantâ€ has awaken and that Springfield will feel their fire.
The coalitionâ€™s goal is to present the petitions to Governor Pat Quinn, the Speakers of the House and Senate and remind them that â€œthey work for us.â€ The â€œsleeping giantâ€ will â€œdeputizeâ€ others to become activists and lobby their lawmakers to vote in favor of these bills they say is needed to stem the violence in Chicago.
At a press conference held at New Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, 4301 W. Washington, leaders such as Father Michael L. Pfleger, Pastor Ira Acree, Rev. Marshall Hatch, Mark Walsh from Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICAHV), Tio Hardiman from CeaseFire; Father Jose Landaverde; Rev. Marcenia J. Richards; Rev. Susan Johnson from Hyde Park ChurchUrban Dolorosa; WVONâ€™s Mark Wallace, and the mother of a teenage girl who was killed years ago, said the time has come for gun reform.
Rev. Richards urged the public to go online and sign the petitions by clicking www.passthebill.us or call 312-675-2570.
Father Pfleger said, â€œWith 58 percent of the guns recovered in crime in the state of Illinois coming right from the state of Illinois, with 28 percent increase of homicides in this city since last year, there is no time to be waiting. We have to do right now to get the guns and easy access of guns off the streets and out of the hands of those shooting.
â€œItâ€™s not just guns killing people. Itâ€™s people with guns, and weâ€™ve got to take the guns out of hands of people who should not have gunsâ€¦,â€ said Pfleger.
â€œWe will educate our members about the lies the NRA has told them that these petitions and these bills are going to take guns from people. No, these bills are to make people responsible for guns. If you own a gun, you will be responsible for guns in he state of Illinois. If you own a gun, you will be responsible for your guns.
â€œWe will re-educate a community thatâ€™s been lied to by the NRA and gun manufacturers, and after educating them, we will deputize them so they will go from door-to-door, workplace-to workplace. We call on businesses. We call on storesâ€¦. Join this campaign. This is the beginning of the giant coming back in Chicago,â€ bellowed Pfleger.
â€œYes, we can,â€ said Pastor Walter Turner. â€œWe are here today fighting for our children.â€ Referring to Tuesday being the 49th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.â€™s â€œI Have a Dreamâ€ speech, Turner said, â€œIt was during that time when he was alive he talked about the senselessness of the Vietnam War. Well, weâ€™re now here today 49-years later talking about the senselessness about assault weapons in our communityâ€¦.. Weâ€™re here today to tell the legislators,Â President Obama, yes, we can and yes we will.â€
Hardiman said, â€œWe got a lot of cowards out here shooting unarmed people. If you stop the guns from getting into the city, then you stop the coward from getting the gun in his hands because anybody can shoot an unarmed person.â€
Pastor Acree said, â€œWe will win in the end. We will pass this billâ€¦. We will stand together Chicago unitedâ€¦.â€
Rev. Joy Rogers, dean of St. James Cathedral, said she has already collected 1,000 signed petitions. â€œIâ€™m angry mostly at myself on how easy it is to become numb, to feel helpless and hopeless at the proof that we live in a city whose streets are awash in blood and bullets.â€ â€œYou should be angry but now turn that anger into action, turn it into powerâ€¦to forge partnerships, relationshipsâ€¦powerâ€¦connection to make a differenceâ€¦to arouse the livingâ€¦.â€ She said collecting 100,000 signatures are â€œimminently doable.â€
Saying they stand with one voice and one challenge, Hatch said, â€œWe want peace in the streetsâ€¦. â€œWe are here because the number one plague in our communities, the number one plague in America is the plague of violence. We not only use guns in America but we love and trust them because weâ€™ve misplaced God with guns. We reap what we sow.â€
â€œIt is unacceptable when 100,000 people are victims of violence a year,â€ said Hatch. He said if motorists are required to wear safety belts. â€œIf we can do it for automobiles, we can do the same thing for guns that kill 100,000 people a year.â€ He called the proposed bills â€œsensibleâ€ that has nothing to do with violating the Second Amendment. â€œNo citizen has the right to have a military assault weapon…in America.â€
Looking out over the multi-racial coalition, Hatch said, â€œToday, we are de-racializingÂ this issue. Weâ€™re declaring that violence is not a black problem. Itâ€™s not a white problemâ€¦ Itâ€™s a human problem that can have a human solution. Sensible gun laws nowâ€¦.â€
Walsh said, â€œThese weapons of mass destruction are right here in our communities and are killing future generations. Coming together, we will pass these bills, reinstate the ban on assault weapons and help protect the lives of our communities.â€
Rev. Johnson referred to the gun statistics saying, â€œThey are stunning and appalling. The level of violence against children and youth is so disproportionally high in Chicago that the statistics are almost unfathomable. In the last five school years, Chicago has lost over 1300 children and youth to violence, 594 under the age of 20, 110 of whom are under the age of 15 and another 731 youths 26-years and under.
â€œEvery child or youth killed in violence in Chicago nearly ten times that number are injured many of them seriously though they live, some with permanent disability,â€ said Johnson. â€œDuring this same time period, five-years, some have been injured more than once, the same surgeon often operating on the same child again.
â€œIf we think of these losses only from the perspective of the medical cost incurred, it would radically reduce our municipal debt to work on the prevention of violence,â€ said Rev. Johnson. She said there is a long-term affect on surviving family members â€œand the aftermath of a child in youth homicideâ€ including mental anguish, illness including â€œlevels of post traumatic stress disorder that rival any declared war, depression, financial instability, job loss, housing instability, education deferred, education derailed, futures extinguished.â€
Johnson added, â€œWe are only beginning to measure the real impact of violence and how violence against children and youth is perpetuated in a cycle of violence.â€ While Johnson said there is hope, she quickly said, â€œThere is no immunity.â€
She said in Chicago most of the victims of violence are black and Hispanic. However, she added, â€œThere is no neighborhood free from violenceâ€¦. There is no perfect or good enough parenting that protects a child from violence. There is no family income that makes a child immune. There is no educationâ€¦no career path and because there is no immunization against violence. We must work together to prevent it.â€ She said the two bills are key measures.
There were parents there whose children were killed like Alice Thomas-Norris whose daughter, Rolanda Lakesia Marshall, was killed 19-years ago in a drive-by shooting while sitting in a restaurant. Thomas-Norris said no less than 14 bullets were fired into the window of the restaurant. That was on August 28, 1993. That date will forever be etched into the mind of her mother who said after being on life support for eight-days her daughter died on September 6, 1993.
She said her daughter was a gifted honor student and had accomplished a great deal in her short life like singing, dancing, cooking, writing, and teaching. In her memory, Thomas-Norris let go purple 14 balloons, her daughterâ€™s favorite color, and blue balloons to remember her male relatives who were also killed. She also released a pink balloon representing Shavon Dean also killed on August 28, 1994. Â She was shot by an 11-year-old boy named Robert â€œYummyâ€ Sandifer who was later killed by one of his own gang members some say to silence him.
Willie Williams, Jr. told of how his son, Willie Williams III, was killed on April 1, 2006 coming out of the Ford City movie theater. His son was a Jesse White tumbler and had been accepted to attend Arizona State. Williams supports the gun reform bills.
Jermaine Winfield, who is wheelchair-bound, was shot on June 28, 2011. He was a student at the North Lawndale College Prep. He too supports both bills.
Rev. Darius Dionte Randle gave the closing prayer.
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.