Press Releases

Legislative Update : ICHV In The News

June 21st, 2010

Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence Announces Winners of Annual Student Voices Contest

15th Annual Event Honors Creativity and Insights From Youth On How To Address Gun Violence; Student Winners Each Win Computer and Gift Certificate at Local Bookstore to Further Education


The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) announced the winners of the 15th annual “Student Voices Contest.,” an educational program that encourages and rewards young people for using their creativity to raise awareness about gun violence.   ICHV held an awards ceremony on June 11th at ASPIRA Early College where several student winners, though not all, read selections of their essays and poetry and displayed their artwork to their peers. All of the student winners received a new computer and a $25 gift certificate from Borders to further their educational opportunities.  (See complete listing of student winners below).

The Student Voices Contest is both inspirational and heart breaking: young people say they deserve the right to be safe in their communities and want opportunities to pursue their dreams.  But students oftentimes express their pain and anger at losing friends and schoolmates to gun violence.

Veronadine Smith, a 12th grader from Corliss High School who won the high school art competition with her haunting artwork, stated in her piece, “Guns bring out the monster in us.”

Justin Juska, a 7th grader from Bryne Elementary, won the middle school poetry slot with his work “Guns Are Everywhere.” Justin’s eloquent poem about the power and pain of holding a gun said: “Heavy metal, cold and smooth wrapped around my wrist.  No more power.  No more respect.  So much regret.  I am scared. I am weak. I am alone.”

Nayley Gomez, an 11th grader at ASPIRA Early College, won the high school essay competition with her exceptional writing.  “Kids are like sponges: they absorb everything around them.  If they are exposed to gun violence as a form of general entertainment, especially at a very young age, they will label guns as toys.  If they are given the wrong impression of guns and their effects are not properly explained, they will cherish this concept throughout their lives.  Things you learn at a younger age stick with you forever.”

These are just a few samples of the stellar and exquisite work from this year’s ICHV Student Voices Contest.  “We congratulate and honor all of our student winners for using their talents and voices in speaking out about gun violence.  It is truly inspiring to see the creativity, thoughtfulness and passion from our young people who care deeply about making our communities safer,” said Thom Mannard, Executive Director of Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.  “We are grateful for all of the schools that participated in this year’s Student Voices Contest, from our principals, teachers, parents and especially our young people who worked so hard and helped make this event a success.  We were honored to hold this year’s awards ceremony at ASPIRA Early College, a high school in Chicago which has demonstrated incredible leadership in helping to build this powerful educational forum.”


Complete Listing Of Student Winners:

Division One (1st -4th grade)

Essay winners:

Emily I. 4th grade, Mark Sheridan Academy

Ayanni G. 2nd grade, St. Angela School

Kristian W. 2nd grade, McDade.

Poetry Winners:

Calvyn G. 4th grade, Bridgeport Catholic Academy

Camille S. 4th grade, Farnsworth Elementary.

Art Winners:

Rashaun B. 4th grade, Daley Academy

Tameya H. 2nd grade, Scott Joplin Elementary.

Honorable Mentions:

Beriah H. 1st grade, St. Patrick Catholic School –Essay

Laura B. 4th grade, Walt Disney Magnet – Art

Jeffry A., 4th grade, Hay Academy – Art.


Division two (5th- 8th grade)

Essay Winners:

Anthony A. 7th grade, Hale

Benjamin L. 6th grade, Robert Healy School

Poetry Winners:

Justin J. 7th grade, Byrne School

Haley L. 7th grade, St. Eugene School

Art Winners:

Julio T. 7th grade, Daley Academy

Monica M. 8th grade, Pulaski Academy.

Honorable Mentions:

Blana S. 6th grade, Jordan Community – Art

Benjamin V. 7th grade, Farnsworth Elementary – Essay

Sarah Y. 8th grade, St. Eugene School – Poetry

Alexandria J. 8th grade, St. Patrick Catholic School – Poetry


Division Three ( 9th – 12th grade)

Essay Winners:

Nayely G. 11th grade, Aspira Early College

Poetry Winners:

Tysheka C. 11th grade, Harper High School

Soloman C. 12th grade, Perspecitives

Art Winners:

Veronadine S. 12th grade, Corliss

Rian K. 12th grade, Corliss

– END –


March 29th, 2010

Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence Issues Statement on Arrests of Christian Cult Militia Members Arrested In Illinois and Midwestern States – Calls For Urgent Federal and State Action to Ban Assault Weapons

An FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested seven men and one woman — another suspect is still being sought — in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana as “part of an investigation into an Adrian-based unit of the Hutaree, a group that professes it is training in modern armed combat techniques for a prophesized coming battle with the Antichrist,” according to the Associated Press.

The federal court indictment states, “The HUTAREE’s enemies include state and local law enforcement, which are deemed ‘foot soldiers’ of the Federal government, Federal law enforcement agencies and employees, participants in the ‘New World Order,’ and anyone who does not share in the HUTAREE’s beliefs. Since at least 2008, the HUTAREE has been meeting regularly to conduct military-style training in Lenawee County….The purpose of this training has been to plan and prepare for the impending war with the HUTAREE’s enemies.”

The militia’s grisly plans are noted on page 4 of the federal court indictment: “The general concept of operations provided that the HUTAREE would commit some violent act to draw the attention of law enforcement or government officials and which would prompt a response by law enforcement. Possible such acts which were discussed including killing a member of law enforcement after a traffic stop, killing a member of law enforcement and his or her family at home, ambushing a member of law enforcement in rural communities, luring a member of law enforcement with a false 911 emergency call and then killing him or her, and killing a member of law enforcement and then attacking the funeral procession motorcade with weapons of mass destruction. These acts would intimidate and demoralize law enforcement diminishing their ranks and rendering them ineffective.”

In response, Thom Mannard, Executive Director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV), issued the following statement:

“It is disturbing to read today that a Christian cult and militia sought to arm themselves with deadly weapons and to train its members to kill other people, including law enforcement officials, based on a sick and twisted interpretation of the Christian faith. This FBI raid is yet more proof that hate groups, cults and militias in our nation can easily arm themselves with some of the most deadly weapons available, such as military-style assault weapons, powerful handguns and other dangerous weapons of mass destruction.

“Congress and the Obama administration must act to address the terrorism threat enabled by America’s weak gun laws. America’s safety and security continues to be at grave risk until we ban the sale of all military-style assault weapons, such as AK-47s and .50 caliber sniper rifles, and require criminal background checks on every firearm sold. Ultimately, comprehensive federal legislation must be enacted to address this danger and improve homeland security.

“Illinois state lawmakers do not have to wait for Congress to act to limit the access and threat of deadly assault weapons. Pending legislation SB 3036 sponsored by Senator Antonio Munoz, and HB 5751 sponsored by Representative Edward Acevedo should be acted on immediately.

“ICHV believes it is imperative to protect our communities from the proliferation of these deadly weapons into our communities. The easy access to military-style assault weapons undermines our public safety and our personal security. This FBI raid against a well-armed militia should act as a wake-up to lawmakers to take action to prevent a potential domestic terrorist attack.

“Finally, we urge all members of the faith community to speak out more fervently against any group that uses religion to justify acts of violence.”

March 10th, 2010

Why Does the Illinois State Rifle Association Deny That Concealed Weapons Permit Holders Have Killed 139 Since May 2007, Including 9 Cops

ISRA Uses Lobby Day to Press For Dangerous and Carrying Concealed Weapons Law That Threatens Public Safety

Illinois Gun Owner’s Lobby Day (IGOLD) held in Springfield today should answer for the fact that concealed handgun permit holders have committed scores of homicides, including shooting law enforcement officers, rampage shootings and murder-suicides. Despite the rhetoric and spin from the ISRA and the gun lobby that CCW handgun permit holders are “law abiding,” mounting evidence and scores of violent incidents show that concealed handgun permit holders are a risk to public safety.

For example, on January 19, 2010 in Virginia, Christopher Speight, a CCW permit holder, shot and killed eight people including his sister and her husband, their 15-year-old daughter and four-year-old son, as well as two teenagers aged 15 and 16. Speight was described by co-workers as a handyman, construction worker, and security guard who had a longtime fascination with guns and a fear of government conspiracies. Speight enjoyed target shooting at a range on his property.

According to neighbors, prior to the shooting Speight began shooting daily on his range, including high-powered rifles. Speight, troubled about a perceived family dispute over a house and land, owned as many as 40 guns and was said to be very skilled with weapons. The gun lobby likes to dismiss cases such as Speight’s for fear that such violent shootings undermine the gun lobby’s radical agenda.

Speight’s mass killing was one of many fatal shootings cataloged in an on-line resource, “CCW Killers,” from the Violence Policy Center that monitors homicides committed by concealed handgun permit holders since May 2007. The appalling numbers speak for themselves: 139 people have been killed, 9 of which were law enforcement officers. In addition, the VCP found 13 mass shootings committed by CCW handgun permit holders and 14 murder suicides.

See the VPC study here:

“I think the ISRA should explain to the public why carrying hidden and loaded handguns in public is a good idea when we have a mountain of evidence that too many CCW permit holders in other states are unstable and violent, resulting in an appalling number of homicides,” said Thom Mannard, Executive Director of the ICHV. “This evidence points to one conclusion, that a concealed weapons law is dangerous and a major threat for Illinois residents.”

Violence Policy Center Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “When the National Rifle Association launched its state-by-state campaign for lax concealed handgun laws, it made this promise: ‘People who get permits in states which have fair right-to-carry laws are law-abiding, upstanding community leaders who merely seek to exercise their right to self-defense.’ To the contrary, concealed handgun permit holders are killing people over parking spaces, football games, and family arguments.”

Because most state systems that allow the carrying of concealed handguns in public by private citizens release little data about crimes committed by permit holders, the VPC reviews and tallies concealed handgun permit holder killings primarily as reported by news outlets. It is likely that the actual number of fatal incidents involving concealed handgun permit holders is far higher.

February 16th, 2010

On Anniversary Of Shooting Massacre At Northern Illinois University, It’s Time To Honor the Victims Of Gun Violence By Strengthening Gun Laws

As the second anniversary of the Northern Illinois University Valentine’s Day shooting approaches, the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) is asking all Illinoisans to remember the five students who were tragically killed and to keep the survivors and families in their thoughts and prayers this weekend.

The five NIU students killed that day were Gayle Dubowski, 20, from Carol Stream; Catalina Garcia, 20, Cicero; Juilanna Gehant, 32 Mendota; Ryanne Mace, 19, Carpentersville; and Daniel Parmenter, 20, Elmhurst. Sixteen other students were wounded in the attack. Stephen Kazmierczak, a 27-year-old former NIU graduate student, carried a shotgun in a guitar case along with three handguns into a crowded lecture hall when he fired six shotgun shells and 48 handgun rounds before killing himself.

“It’s important that we remember the victims and pray for the families and friends who will live with this loss for the rest of their lives,” said Thom Mannard, Executive Director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. “That’s why lawmakers and citizens alike must ardently commit ourselves to preventing gun violence so that another family doesn’t have to face a similar tragedy. But to truly honor these victims means taking action to fix our broken system which allows such easy access to deadly guns.”

Since the NIU tragedy, hundreds of other Illinois residents have been killed due to random gun violence.

Mark Walsh, Director of the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a project of ICHV, noted that it is time for the Illinois legislature to take urgent action to strengthen the state’s gun laws in order to save lives.

“We know that the General Assembly can take action that will certainly have an impact on reducing gun violence. Policies such as requiring background checks on all handgun purchases, state licensing of gun dealers and a continued prohibition on the carrying of concealed weapons will all contribute to safer communities and college campuses in our state. What’s missing in Springfield, and in Washington, is the political will and courage to tackle gun violence as a serious issue, instead of sucking up to the ideology and special interests of the gun lobby.”

November 18th, 2009

Concealed Handgun Permit Holders Have Killed 8 Law Enforcement, 77 Private Citizens Over Two and a Half Year Period According to New On-Line Resource That Tallies News Reports of CCW Killings

(Chicago)–Concealed handgun permit holders killed eight law enforcement officers and 77 private citizens (including 10 shooters who killed themselves after an attack) during the period May 2007 through October 2009 according to a new Violence Policy Center (VPC) on-line resource that tallies news reports of such killings.  The web site, CCW Killers, is located at and is updated monthly to include new fatal shootings and changes in the legal status of concealed handgun permit holders facing criminal charges.  (Any concealed handgun permit holders who are eventually acquitted of their alleged crimes are not included in the tallies maintained on the site although the facts surrounding the shooting are detailed.)

Illinois and Wisconsin are the only states in the U.S. that prohibit the carrying of concealed handguns by private citizens in public.  The gun lobby has targeted both states through aggressive legislation and litigation in its failed efforts to force these states to implement mandatory concealed carry systems.  Illinois gun violence prevention advocates say the leadership shown by the state’s elected officials in standing up to the gun lobby has saved lives and should be a model for other governors and state legislatures.

“Clearly, Illinois law enforcement officials and state residents are much safer by not having a dangerous carrying concealed handgun law,” said Thom Mannard, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.  “When you look at the troubling incidents of concealed handgun permit holders murdering police officers and other citizens, you have to ask, how in the world can elected officials permit such risks to community safety?  It’s time that states start to reverse these dangerous laws that permit the carrying of hidden and loaded handguns in public.”

The new VPC web site offers detailed descriptions of the 46 incidents which occurred in 18 states (see for detailed descriptions of all incidents).  Of these incidents, 10 were murder-suicides involving firearms and eight were mass shootings (three or more victims) that claimed as many as 11 lives at a time.  Law enforcement officers were killed in Florida (two incidents), Idaho, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (two incidents).  All of the law enforcement killings were committed with guns.

Private citizens were killed in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida (nine incidents), Idaho (two incidents), Kentucky, Michigan (three incidents), New York, North Carolina (two incidents), Ohio (three incidents), Oklahoma (two incidents), Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina (two incidents), Tennessee (five incidents), Texas, Utah (two incidents), and Virginia (three incidents).  All but one of the killings were committed with guns.

Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center, states, “This new web site makes clear that contrary to the false promises of the gun lobby the simple and deadly fact is that state concealed handgun systems are arming cop-killers, mass shooters, and other murderers.”

Because most state systems that allow the carrying of concealed handguns in public by private citizens release little data about crimes committed by permit holders, the VPC reviews and tallies concealed handgun permit holder killings as reported by news outlets.  It is likely that the actual number of fatal criminal incidents involving concealed handgun permit holders is far higher.

October 19, 2009

Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence Honors Illinois Senate President John Cullerton With Prestigious Abraham Lincoln Award At 27th Annual Benefit

The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) honored Illinois Senate President John Cullerton with the prestigious Abraham Lincoln Award at its 27th anniversary awards benefit.  Sen. Cullerton was honored for his commitment to reducing gun violence in Illinois, his stellar leadership and tenacity in passing the gun show loophole in the state in 2005, and stopping the gun lobby’s irresponsible agenda to permit the carrying of hidden and loaded guns in public places.  Sen. Cullerton’s lengthy public service career spanning nearly 30 years as a state representative and now as President of the State Senate is a testament to how a political leader can advocate and fight for the safety and quality of life not just for his own constituents but on behalf of the entire state.

“The state of Illinois is fortunate to have a leader such as Sen. Cullerton who understands the human costs of gun violence and knows that gun deaths are preventable through sensible and effective policy,” said Thom Mannard, Executive Director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.  “We congratulate Sen. Cullerton on receiving this well-deserved honor.”

The Lincoln Awards is an event to honor individuals who have shown great courage in the fight to reduce gun violence. Past Lincoln Award honorees include President Bill Clinton, Senators Ted Kennedy, Diane Feinstein and Richard Durbin, Chicago’s own Mayor Richard M. Daley and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and Education Secretary and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan among other distinguished recipients.

This year ICHV awarded its Citizen Advocacy Award to Father Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina’s Church.  Father Pfleger, a survivor of gun violence whose foster son Jarvis Franklin was killed in 1998 has battled every single front of the gun violence issue.  Pfleger protests gun dealers who sell scores of firearms later used in crimes, such as Bell’s Guns which eventually closed its doors and was a target of a civil disobedience effort to block the entrance along with Rev. Jesse Jackson.  Pfleger also responds immediately when a student is gunned down on the streets and organizes a community march to bring attention to the gun violence crisis in Chicago.  He consistently speaks about the moral necessity to put the health, safety and life of our children and citizens over the profits of the gun industry.

“There is not a more passionate advocate for ending gun violence than Father Pfleger,” said Thom Mannard. “He’s seen as a respected voice and a unifier in Chicago saying we can in fact save lives – we can solve this problem if we just changed our priorities.”

ICHV also honored three Illinois leaders with the 2009 Legislative Advocacy Award.  Congressman Bobby Rush (1st district), also a survivor of gun violence, his son Huey was shot and killed in 1999 continues to advocate for comprehensive solutions to gun violence.  Rush is a sponsor of the of the “Blair Holt Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009,” legislation named after a teen who was shot and killed on a CTA bus while protecting a girl from gunfire by another young man.  State Senator Heather Steans (7th district) successfully passed a landmark anti-domestic violence bill (HB3991) that revokes and denies FOID cards from individuals who are served an order of protection.  Finally, Oak Park Village President David Pope has been a stalwart defender of his community’s life-saving handgun ban along with Chicago and has pledged that regardless of the looming Supreme Court decision next summer, Oak Park is committed to enacting sensible and effective policies to reduce access to guns.

June 26th, 2009

Despite 36 Public School Students Killed By Gun Violence, and Days After 9-Year-Old Girl Gunned Down Outside Her Home, the Illinois Gun Lobby Holds Rally To End Chicago’s Handgun Ban

On One-Year Anniversary of Supreme Court Heller Ruling that Stripped D.C. Of Its Handgun Ban, Pro-Gun Groups Want To Flood Chicago With Even More Deadly Weapons and Push for Carrying Hidden and Loaded Guns In Public

(June 26, 2009, Chicago) – The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence sharply criticized the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) and Illinois Carry for holding a public rally today calling for ending Chicago’s 27-year-old handgun ban only days after the tragic shooting of 9-year-old Chastity Turner who was gunned down while bathing her dog in front of her own home. Thirty-six Chicago Public School students were also killed during the ’09 school year in a continuing rash of gun violence. Most troubling is the language, tone and materials that pro-gun groups are using to promote their rally in downtown Chicago. Ralph Connor, an African-American conservative who will speak at the rally, continues to preach a divisive message that “gun control is racist” and is eagerly promoting a film that features him, called “”No Guns for Negroes.”

The ISRA finds itself in a hypocritical and difficult position playing the race card as an argument to removing the city’s life-saving measure and pushing for a carrying concealed weapons bill. Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the Chicago and Oak Park handgun bans by a 3-0 decision. U.S. Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook, joined by Circuit Court Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, said they were bound to follow the precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court in its ruling on the Second Amendment not applying to states. All three federal judges were GOP appointees. Yet in response, Hal Turner, an avid racist and internet radio host from New Jersey was arrested for threatening to kill the three federal judges who upheld Chicago’s handgun ban. Turner said, “”Let me be the first to say this plainly; These judges deserve to be killed.”

“The truth is that the gun lobby could care less about the impact that gun violence has on Chicago, much less the devastating effects on the African-American and Latino communities,” said Thom Mannard, Executive Director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. “All the gun lobby cares about is their blind and extremist ideology that wants to force deadly and loaded guns into our communities, schools, parks, shopping centers, hospitals, and daycare centers. If the gun lobby really cared about stopping gun violence in our communities they would stop promoting an agenda that makes it all too easy for gangbangers to acquire guns that are used to kill innocent children like Chastity Turner.”

In addition, gun homicides plague the African-American community. According to the Violence Policy Center the annual study, “Black Homicide Victimization in the United States” found that there were 7,425 black homicide victims in the United States. The homicide rate for black victims in the United States was 20.27 per 100,000. In comparison, the overall national homicide rate was 5.38 per 100,000 and the national homicide rate for whites was 3.14 per 100,000.

“The truth is that the gun lobby are enablers of violence by stifling and stopping life-saving reforms to enact stronger gun laws,” said Scott Vogel, Communications Director for the Freedom States Alliance. “Gun extremists preach their limited, narrow and selfish view of ‘their rights’ without any regard to ‘our rights’ as members of a broad community that want to live peacefully and free from the fear of gun violence.”

Parents, victims and survivors of gun violence are focusing on solutions to save lives, instead of debating divisive racial politics with extremists who show no empathy for those killed by gun violence,

“As a parent who has suffered the devastating effects of gun violence in my family, I urge our lawmakers to gain the political will and moral capacity to support common sense gun regulations,” said Ron Holt, the founder and President of, and whose son Blair was shot and killed on a CTA bus by an armed teen. “If our lawmakers could hear, see, and feel the pain that we as parents who have lost a child to gun violence, then maybe they would understand.”

June 4th, 2009

Definitive Ruling Holds that Gun Violence Prevention Laws Do Not Violate the Second Amendment; Decision Is Setback To Gun Lobby’s Radical Agenda To Eradicate Nation’s Gun Laws

Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence Praises Appellate Court Ruling Protecting Chicago’s ‘Life-Saving’ Handgun Ban

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the Chicago and Oak Park handgun bans by a 3-0 decision. The 7th Circuit said that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Heller that stripped D.C. of its handgun ban only applies to the federal government. Chicago enacted its handgun ban in 1982. The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) praised the ruling.

“The 7th Circuit arrived at the correct decision. This ruling saved lives,” said Thom Mannard, Executive Director of ICHV. “The debate over Chicago’s handgun ban is not an abstract legal argument, but about the right of governments to enact sensible policies to keep deadly guns out of our communities. It’s time that more judges, lawyers and legal scholars understood that these important decisions are more than just legal theories, but about preventing gun deaths and injuries.”

Gun violence prevention advocates expect the gun lobby to continue to press its case all the way to the Supreme Court. U.S. Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook, joined by Circuit Court Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, said they were bound to follow the precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court in its ruling on the Second Amendment not applying to states. All three federal judges were GOP appointees. The case is National Rifle Association of America v. City of Chicago, 08-4241, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Chicago).

“If Chicago’s handgun ban is ever overturned by the Supreme Court, it would open the floodgates to challenge every gun control measure in the country. Even more ominous, those facing criminal charges or even those convicted of gun violations could now challenge their status on Constitutional grounds,” said Chester Kulis, a retired federal law enforcement officer, attorney and current board member of ICHV.

The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence said that the Court’s ruling made crystal clear that sensible gun laws are Constitutional. ICHV pressed state lawmakers to continue to pass stronger gun laws to save lives, such as requiring common sense background checks on all gun sales to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of drug dealers, gun traffickers, domestic abusers, and mentally unstable individuals.

Relative to the rest of the country, Illinois has enacted a host of gun violence prevention policies. Illinois mandates that residents apply for a Firearm Owner Identification Card (FOID) to possess a firearm and ammunition. In addition, state law does not preempt local municipalities and communities to enact their own gun laws; and Illinois is one of only two states, along with Wisconsin, that prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons in public.

April 20th 2009

Columbine – America’s Lost Decade:
On 10-Year Anniversary of Massacre, the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence Calls for Renewed Leadership to Strengthen Gun Laws

The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) and the Freedom States Alliance said that, ten years after the Columbine massacre on April 20, it is painfully clear that policymakers in Washington and Illinois have squandered the opportunity to enact policies to reduce and prevent gun violence. More chilling is that the United States continues to slide into a dangerous spiral: unable to confront the powerful interests of the gun lobby and industry that is holding the American government hostage.

However, ICHV said that solutions are still immediately available and called for bold leadership in Congress and in Springfield to lead the fight. For example, the Obama administration should press Congress to remove the Tiahrt restrictions that impede ATF’s ability to stop illegal gun trafficking and permit the release of gun crime trace data to law enforcement officials. Removing those restrictions would give law enforcement officials the tools to help keep illegal guns from flowing into Chicago. Likewise, common sense solutions in Illinois include legislation to mandate background checks on all handgun sales and requiring gun owners to report lost and stolen guns to law enforcement officials.

“The sensible solutions to reducing gun violence are right before us,” said Thom Mannard, Executive Director of ICHV. “The critical component that we need is leadership in Washington and in Springfield to enact stronger gun laws to save lives.”

Over the last ten years, and despite overwhelming support from the American people to enact stronger gun laws, the United States has lost significant ground to confront the gun violence crisis. America’s “lost decade” since the Columbine tragedy can be summed up as an appalling record of failed leadership, squandered opportunities, blind ideology, and raw intimidation and power by the gun lobby and industry. And although Illinois has stronger gun laws than most states, such as prohibiting carrying concealed weapons and requiring background checks at Illinois gun shows, much more needs to be done to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands.

“Ultimately, our gun violence problem requires federal legislation. But our state lawmakers shouldn’t wait for Congress to act before we do everything we can in Illinois to prevent gun violence,” said Mannard.

During America’s “lost decade,” policymakers in Washington that were beholden to the gun lobby: Gave blanket civil immunity to the gun industry; failed to renew and strengthen the federal assault weapons ban in 2004; refused to mandate background checks on all gun sales, especially at gun shows; and allowed for the sheer proliferation of powerful .50 caliber sniper rifles. Approximately 300,000 Americans have died from gun violence since Columbine, and school shootings and massacres continue unabated.

“We need lawmakers in Washington and in Springfield who will fight to protect our communities from gun violence instead of pushing the gun lobby’s radical and extremist agenda,” said Scott Vogel, Communications Director for Freedom States Alliance. “America needs advocates inside government who are willing to show courage and integrity in fighting for solutions to cope with the gun violence epidemic.”

February 15, 2008

Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence Response to Shootings at Northern Illinois University

(Chicago) – The following statement was released by Thom Mannard, Executive Director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.

“Yesterday, our nation was stunned once again by a mass murder that occurred on the campus of Northern Illinois University. Six individuals lost their lives and many others were wounded in yet another tragedy involving guns.

“First and foremost our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their family and friends and the entire Northern Illinois community,” said Thom Mannard, Executive Director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. “No one should have to experience the horror of a gunman coming into a classroom and opening fire, and yet it appears that this is becoming an all too regular occurrence in our country.

“How many innocent victims must we lose on college campuses, in shopping malls, city halls and other public places before we say ‘this is enough’ and start to discuss the role that guns play in all these tragedies,” Mannard continued. “We can no longer avoid the fact that guns are the common denominator in all these events, and that guns are the only type of weapon legally available in this country that can kill so many people in such a short period of time.

“The question is no longer will there be another tragedy like Northern Illinois or Virginia Tech, but instead where will it happen next. It’s time for all of us in this country to stop tolerating our out of control gun culture that is causing the loss of innocent lives on a daily basis and begin a national discussion about what we can do at all levels to reduce the number of gun related tragedies,” Mannard concluded.