A multi-racial coalition of anti-violence organizations Thursday held a rally in Springfield urging lawmakers to pass a commonsense gun bill. The groups, mostly comprised of faith leaders, say they are tired of going to funerals – especially for youth.
At least two busloads of the coalition members and supporters traveled to the state capital from Chicago, wearing blue shirts that said, “Standing Together for Common Sense Gun Laws! Illinois Advocacy Day.”
Rev. Michael Pfleger, who has been outspoken on community violence , vowed that state leaders who didn’t support gun legislation palpable for the group and what Pfleger says is the will of many Illinoisans – by way of the 50,000-signature petitions the group delivered to the governor – could themselves lose constituent backing.
“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,” Pfleger said Thursday, referring to members of the Illinois General Assembly.
“But, (Republican House Minority Leader Tom) 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,” Pfleger added.
He spoke at a press conference on the steps of the State Capitol, flanked by Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-16th. Collins is also member of Pfleger’s St. Sabina church. Others attending with the South Side priest included Rev. Ira Acree and members of his St. John Bible Church on the city’s West Sid, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, which organized the rally, Bishop Christopher Epting, the assisting bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, Rev. B. Herbert Martin, Rev. Larry Martin, Hope Church Chicago, Marcinia Richards, executive director of the Peace Coalition Against Violence at Saint Sabina, state Sens. Napoleon Harris, D-15th, Dan Kotowski D-33rd, Don Harmon, D-39th, state Rep. Esther Golar, D-6th, Ald. Lona Lane (18th), Pam Bosley, from Purpose Over Pain, activist Camiella D. Williams and representatives from The Voices of the Surviving Siblings.
“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,” Acree said while leading the group in prayer.
Quinn addressed the coalition.
“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,” said the governor.
Illinois had been the only state in the country that did not allow citizens to carry concealed weapons. But in December, an appeals court ruled that the state has to come up with a law that allows concealed carry. Illinois was given 180 days to come up with the legislation.
The Illinois Council on Handgun Against Violence has joined Pfleger in his fight to lobby lawmakers to pass a bill the priest hopes will reduce violence and homicides in Chicago.
Pfleger and ICHV are demanding that any legislation proposed would allow local law enforcement to control who gets a permit and they also want a provision asking a gun permit applicant to provide a “good cause” for wanting a firearm.
Other provisions sought include: universal background checks on all gun purchases and transfers, reporting of lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement and titling guns like cars.