Insights

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Welcome to ICHV Insights, a page that provides a forum of ideas and perspectives from those working to reduce gun violence in Illinois and across the nation. The ICHV Insights page allows us to highlight the wide range of voices and viewpoints in the gun violence prevention movement, including those of medical professionals, law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, advocates, victims, ICHV members, and others. Our hope is to illuminate the world of gun violence prevention and engage people in discussion about the issues that contribute to gun violence in our society. This section of our website highlights the incredible work our coalition partners are doing, and will give you a unique look at the many perspectives within gun violence prevention.
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Turning My Passion into a Purpose

ICHV Insights Column by Camiella D. Williams

I am from the south side of Chicago, the Englewood community. Violence is very prevalent there. I kept losing friends to gun violence and decided that I had to take a stand. Since 2004, I’ve known 17 people who lost their lives to gun violence.

I grew up being used to someone getting shot in front of my house. I grew up used to having a counselor at school talking to us about someone who just got shot. I just expected these things to happen – it was part of the lifestyle in our community.

I also struggled while growing up. I fell behind one grade because I wasn’t focused. In second grade, my anger kicked up – I hit someone in the face with a brick. Someone else hit me, and I had to get twenty stitches under my eye. I could have lost it. Anger and rage made me not really respect life.  I did some things out in the street – fighting, getting into trouble, not going to class.

One of the breaking points for me to get involved happened in 2006. I went to school with the siblings of two young girls, Starkesha and Siritha – so I saw these girls grow up. They were shot a week apart. Starkesha was shot in the eye with an AK-47 when she was 15 years old. Siritha was at a party and a bullet came through the window. She was 10 years old. They both died.

I was pregnant when they died. A friend called and told me about Siritha – “you know that little girl that was shot?”  It was a shock. She was ten years old!

I remember talking to a teacher about how something needed to be done – so many children are being killed. I was about to have a son, and I kept on thinking I don’t want my son to face the same thing. This could be him.

The first thing I had to do was evaluate myself. I admit, there was a point when I was younger when I didn’t care. But then I started working on my grades, I read more. I stated reading works by Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West. I started reading more about slavery. While I was coming around, though, my friends were dying. At first I wondered, “Should I turn my pain into revenge, or into doing something positive?”

I feel I am doing something positive. I am currently 23 years old and studying criminology at Prairie State College. I will be transferring to Governor’s State University, to get my bachelor’s in criminology and a master’s in social work. I’m thinking that maybe I’ll be a probation officer for young people.

I participate in a wide range of activities designed to help prevent violence – including marches and rallies. I have also lent support to families in a group called Purpose Over Pain, which was founded by bereaving family members of children killed by gun violence. In addition, I have been involved in teaching conflict resolution at the Chicago Public Schools and at local colleges. Along the way, I have also gotten involved with the Student Government Association (SGA) at school. I have been able to see how it’s possible to change laws. SGA made me see outside of the box – and understand what organizing was about, how to be part of a collective voice and understand the powers that you have. Now, I’m also a stickler for education – I’m a substitute teacher at a school for children with behavioral issues.

Considering some of the problems I had while growing up, some people have been surprised by my activities. But it’s true that I found a passion to be involved. If you have a passion, you have to do what you need to do. There are so many ways to make an impact – for me, it’s not just getting involved in various activities at school and in the community, but staying in touch with families across the country who are affected by violence through my Facebook page.

Much of what I am doing is about young people getting together to do positive things. I feel that the next step will be about encouraging young people to become politically aware – the next generation has the understand policy and procedure, and the power of its voice. It’s also important for us to understand the opposition – how they recruit people as well as how they pressure policymakers. You have to understand both sides.

I’m committed to preventing and reducing gun violence. I turned my rage and anger into a purpose – and my purpose is to reach others. Each time I hear about young people dying, I cry. I know what their peers go through. I think of my son. After a while, I learned, you just have to do something about it and work toward a solution.

Camiella D. Williams is a youth activist who is involved in a wide range of activities designed to help prevent gun violence. She is a student a Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Illinois and majors in criminology.


A Personal Story: Woman Provides Support to Victims of Violence

ICHV Insights Column by Sarita Villareal

More than eight years have passed, but Sarita Villareal of Chicago remembers one night in October of 2002 – and always will. On October 26, 2002, her brother Tony was shot and killed. In the years since that tragedy, Villareal has been actively working to prevent gun violence.

Fateful Night

“I was living in the Andersonville community on Chicago’s north side, and I hosted a Halloween party,” says Villareal, who has four grown children and is the fifth of nine children herself. “After the party, my brother Tony – we were very close — was on the way home to Little Village with his wife. He was dressed as a clown and his wife was dressed as a witch. She was seven months pregnant. They drove down Western Avenue in his Blazer, listening to Spanish music. At 21st and Western, Tony saw that someone was laying on the ground. He realized it was a homeless person. He lowered the window, intending to give two dollars to the man. Suddenly, a car came up next to his car. The passenger pulled out a handgun and shot my brother once – in the neck artery.”

“I got a call,” she continues. ”I spoke to another brother’s wife, and I heard wailing in the background. I realized it was my mother crying out my brother’s name and saying “Tony had an accident.” When I got to the hospital, everyone was there. I didn’t even know what happened to my brother yet. I didn’t even find out he was shot until I got to the hospital. Then a doctor at the hospital told us that someone had to identify the body.”

Aftermath

“Everything happened so fast: they buried my brother the following Wednesday,” she says. “On Saturday, there was a rally for him, one of the first in Little Village. Police were with us and saw our motivation.” Soon after the shooting, the story was in the news and the city of Chicago was calling Villareal’s brother a Good Samaritan.

“The shock and the pain and the outrage – I remember all of that well, as does everyone in my family,” says Villareal, who grew up in the city’s Humboldt Park and South Lawndale (now Little Village) neighborhoods. “Still, it was also immediately apparent to me that there was something wrong about the way my brother’s death was handled.”

Because of her experience and background in working with families affected by violence, Villareal had a sense of what was needed. While raising four children, she experienced domestic violence, and eventually left her marriage. She became a Vista worker stationed in Chicago, during which time she was trained in how to work with domestic violence victims. Eventually, she landed a job as a police dispatcher and then public communicator with police departments for ten years. “All of these  personal and professional experiences shaped me,” she says.

She also had experience as a volunteer for the victim witness program with the Evanston Police Department, a civilian-based department that responds to victims of crime.

Within days of her brother’s death, Villareal started making phone calls. “For one, we wanted people to know that my brother was not in a gang. Like many families, we also wanted to find out who committed the crime,” she says. “Eventually, we did, and we went to court so many times.” (The shooter was ultimately sentenced to 60 years plus life, the driver got 14 years).

“It was at that time when we heard that a young girl – she was 18 years old – was killed in Little Village,” says Villareal.

Taking Action

“When we heard about that young girl, I had a feeling that I knew what to do. My three sisters and I went to this young woman’s house. There was no victim’s witness program reaching out to the family,” says Villareal. “We organized a rally for the family, got Crime Stoppers involved. That’s when we fell into it – we thought, ‘Let’s do something.’”

Family members sat down and created S.A.V.E. Another L.I.F.E. (The name actually stands for Sisterhood Against Violence Everyday and Love in Our Families and Educate). The organization’s mission was, and is, to provide emergency assistance and emotional support to victims of violent crimes and to build safer communities through community awareness. Meanwhile, Villareal reached out into other areas, and is now a trained facilitator in restorative justice. “I was like a sponge responding to this stuff, and things were coming my way,” she says. In 2003, she was recognized as one of Chicago Magazine’s Chicagoans of the Year.

For S.A.V.E. Another L.I.F.E., usually what happens is a family member calls the organization. Villareal will often try to find out what happened, and let them know what happened to her family. “We make clear to them that we’re not counselors, but are there to provide emotional support. We can help them with guidance, by asking questions and by directing them to the right place if we can’t answer everything,” she says. “Over the years, I have also made calls to funeral homes or cemeteries, gone to court with families, and gone back and forth with the attorney general’s office.”

Next Steps

Now, Villareal is also looking ahead as she tries to increase the impact she and others can have on the gun violence issue.

“What I’ve learned over the years is that this work is bigger than one community – it’s also about legislation and understanding the issues on a broader level,” she says. “That’s why I’ve gone back to school — I’m a sociology major at Northeastern University. My main focus is to learn more about this issue and come back in an even more educated way. More and more, I am learning that gun violence is not just a Latino or black or urban issue – it happens globally. It’s a public health issue.”

“So many times,” she adds, “I have seen how people accept gun violence and get used to hearing about it. They become desensitized. But gun violence is not something we should accept. Every day, I think about what happened to my brother and so many other families. I know from my experience that people can come together on this issue. I just want people to see that gun violence is not normal – and that we can definitely do something about it.”


Statement Regarding Saturday’s Tragic Shooting in Tucson

ICHV Insights Column by ICHV Board Chair, Patrick Thompson

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First, let me say, our thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the family of Judge John Roll and the other victims of the shooting attack on Saturday in Tucson.  Whether or not the divisive political discourse of our country was the factor in this tragic event, there are several concerns that must be addressed.

First and foremost of those concerns has to be the easy access to guns in this country.  ICHV has been at the forefront of requiring stricter laws, not only in Illinois but nationally and calling for background checks on all firearm purchases.  These requirements include a universal background check that looks at mental health status, criminal records and other restrictions so guns don’t fall into the hands of people who shouldn’t have access to them.   Already there are reports that the gunman, Jared Loughner should have been considered a prohibitive purchaser.

The lethality of the weapon that was used has to be considered as well.  The 9 mm Glock 19 was loaded with a 33 round high capacity magazine.  The shooter had 2 additional 15 round clips on him. From 1994 to 2004, those types of clips were banned in this country. Unfortunately, at the behest of the NRA, Congress allowed that law to lapse.  Efforts in Illinois to enact such a ban have previously passed the state Senate.  ICHV calls on our state legislators to enact a ban on these clips designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible.

Another issue that must be examined are the lax gun laws in Arizona.  In 2009, Arizona gun owners attended multiple rallies on Health Care Reform featuring President Obama (Congresswoman Giffords’s support of the Health Care package is thought to have been a factor in the shooting spree) carrying guns including assault weapons, but in August of the same year, police removed an armed protester at a public constituent event of Representative Giffords.

Unfortunately, the political debate in this country is at its most divisive.  Representative Giffords opponents in all of her elections had been endorsed by the NRA, her most recent opponent hosted a $50 fundraiser to shoot an M16 to “help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office” and Sarah Palin posted a map on her Facebook page targeting Democrats including Gliffords with crosshair symbols like those seen through the scope of a gun.  This divisiveness has to stop.   Hopefully, we can move forward and pass common sense gun laws that will save lives and end tragedies such as this.

Again, our hearts go out to all the victims of this senseless tragedy and their families.


We How to Face Violence? Organize the Community

ICHV Insights Column by Francella Jackson

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Gun violence is personal to me. I’ve had family members fall victim to senseless acts of gun violence, as well as numerous friends and so many others in the community. My teenage nephew was gunned down in Centreville, Illinois eleven years ago. And while the pain from that fateful turn of events still remains, I have discovered that getting involved does indeed make a difference.

I am the Director of Community Programs for the East St. Louis (IL) Police Department. We work with neighborhoods, community-based organizations, law enforcement and others in our community to promote public safety.

The majority of my time is spent in the community – meeting with individuals, groups, schools and other law enforcement personnel. It’s all about cultivating relationships – and helping people so they do not become victims.

Guns are a major part of the problem here. The gun and drug culture has taken over parts of our community, which unfortunately mirrors much of urban America. Presently, firearms are as readily accessible as drugs in East St. Louis.

When I first came to the department in the mid-1990’s, there were between 60 and 70 homicides a year in this community. And most of them resulted from gun violence.

In response, we formed a community coalition against violence. Eventually, the police department received a federal grant to support my position. We started a “Weed and Seed” program to address the problem – a community-based strategy sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice – and the results were positive.

In one year homicides dwindled to eighteen. Now, they are on the rise again – and we’re averaging roughly thirty per year.

We are trying to learn from a few things that worked in the past. Organizing the community really works. We conduct group trainings of people in the community, and we’ve learned that when people take ownership of their situation, their fear diminishes. We are also encouraging people to understand that sharing information about a neighborhood problem is not snitching.

Criminals say “don’t snitch” to silence people. But why would you not tell the police when someone shoots a gun? You could be the victim the next day or the next weekend, so it makes good sense to come forward. The person who shoots is free to commit crimes in a violent way. Law enforcement agencies need this information, whether they are using an anonymous tip line or a program like Crime Stoppers, where you call a toll-free number and they offer a reward for the information.

We often hear that the drug and gun culture is an everyday reality in East St. Louis, Chicago and a few other places around the state – but that in some instances it is not important in other communities. This not only creates an “us vs. them” mentality, where other communities say they have nothing to do with the problem. It also doesn’t tell the whole story. Look at what’s happening in many suburban communities – more and more often, we are seeing how crystal meth is impacting young people.

In the end, everyone pays for violence. Gunshot victims go to the hospitals, and many are uninsured. Then insurance companies raise their rates. We are all paying for that. When you look at the overall impact on society, gun violence, is a public health problem.

In our community, everything goes back to community organizing. That’s why we start neighborhood organizations and reactivate groups that have been quiet. When people organize in a community, or state, there is power in numbers.

Of course, those numbers include the kids that we reach with a message about violence prevention. I go into schools, and many times I am joined by law enforcement officers. We tell kids criminals are not their role models. I also tell kids that I know of a number of organizations that have mentoring programs. I want them to see what positive black males look like. There are many positive male forces in our communities. Kids can work with mentors, get tutoring help and participate in recreational activities. That’s what I tell them, and I refer them to groups that can help.

Most of all we need to address family problems – and many of these groups that provide mentoring to kids are equipped to help do that. If we don’t save the whole family, we haven’t done anything. I advocate wrap-around services. For example: if a crime victim comes to the police department, they shouldn’t have to go to four places for services. Even in a bad economy, there are going to be resources.

Like many people I know, I remain as committed to this work as when I started. Committed – even though my house was once riddled with gunfire (and they never found who did it). How are we going to face the problem of gun violence? That’s a question I’m frequently asking myself. I believe in what I’m doing, and I refuse to be intimidated.  Facing this problem is something we can do. It’s going to take courage and commitment.

Francella Jackson is the Director of Community Programs for the East St. Louis Police Department.


We Must Make Gun Violence a Grassroots Issue

ICHV Insights Column by Stephen Young

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It all started for me in June of 1996, when I lost my son Andrew. He was 19 years old.

It happened near the intersection of Clark and Howard on Chicago’s north side. Andrew was driving, had friends with him, and had stopped at a light. He and his friends were confronted by a group of kids throwing gang signs.  One had a gun and fired a bullet that went through Andrew’s heart. He died shortly thereafter at nearby St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.

I got a phone call within 20 minutes – Andrew’s twin brother called, frantic. By the time I got to the emergency room, I witnessed a doctor pumping on Andrew’s chest, trying to get his heart started. I was numb, stunned.  I was escorted to the waiting room, and an hour later, a doctor told me they couldn’t save him.

I found out that police had witnessed the crime and frantically tried to get the attention of the boy pointing the gun into Andrew’s car.  But the boy didn’t see them and pulled the trigger. The police arrested him instantly. The two kids who were convicted are still in prison, although one is due to be released in five-and-a-half years.

I’ve done my grieving, moved on in my life, but in reality a person never fully recovers from a shock like this. You try to pass on the lessons learned in the hope that it will prevent another family from devastating tragedy.

Getting involved

In my work, I service and restore pianos. One of my customers back then was Larry Suffredin, an attorney who is now a Cook County commissioner. After reading about my son, he invited me to breakfast and introduced me to Dan Kotowski, who was then the executive director at the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (he is now an Illinois State Senator).  Dan began channeling me into speaking opportunities and community events.

While all of this was happening, there were questions I couldn’t get out of my mind. Where did these kids get the gun?  What adult sold it to them?

Finding answers to these questions drove my activism. Soon, I was a sprinter, working full blast, constantly asking questions. Eventually, I learned that the gun was a Bryco 9mm straw-purchased by a felon at a gun shop in the western suburbs.

Meanwhile, I was learning about how the gun industry operates. It wasn’t long before I found out the obvious: Low-end junk handgun manufacturers make money the same way McDonald’s does.  They make their product cheap, and sell high volume. At one point, I became a plaintiff in a victims’ lawsuit against gun manufacturers.

Growing movement

Next, I worked with an organization for victims called HELP for Survivors, which served many Chicago-area gun violence victims.  I was later contacted by a group in San Francisco that had helped launch Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). They wanted to create a similar grassroots structure for gun violence victims. This effort became the Bell Campaign, which assisted survivors of gun violence and trained citizens in how to advocate at local levels. By 1999, I moved on, and became the Midwest Director for the Bell Campaign.

The Campaign launched in Chicago about a month before Columbine. Before I knew it, there was a camera in my face all the time, and many people were getting involved. The media recognized us as an important voice on the issue. This was during the late 1990’s, when gun violence was one of the top two or three issues covered in the media. Around this time, organizers of the Million Mom March were searching for support and we chose to help them.  We organized events that drew 15,000 people in Chicago, 750,000 at the primary event in Washington, and 70 other marches around the country.  In the aftermath, there was a tidal wave of people who wanted to organize and take on the gun lobby; people who had tools.  The public response was massive. I also learned during the Bell Campaign that when the NRA is attacking you, and they came after us constantly, you’re doing something right.

Our name was changed to the Million Mom March. It was a fatal marketing mistake – we lost significant support among men.  Some ex-members were former marines who had serious problems with public gun policies.   Had the Bell Campaign stayed on a path of slow growth, I think we would have been OK, but the organization was overwhelmed and collapsed under the weight of the huge public response.

In recent years I taught a class, “The Politics Of Guns and the 2nd Amendment,” at Northwestern, and worked as a grassroots coordinator for the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. I‘ve also spoke out for political campaigns.  If people are made aware that a candidate voted against bills intended to keep guns away from kids, that can change how a person votes.

Next steps?

Why bring up the history of my involvement?  I think there’s a point to be made about where this movement has been – and where it can go from here.  In sum, I strongly believe that the movement to stop gun violence in this country needs to be far more unified at the grassroots level. We have enough people on our side to make this work.

We know one thing about this country: gun violence continues, every day. We won’t succeed unless we come together on this issue. And let’s keep in mind that some traditional strategies still work: legislators are more likely to listen to local activists who phone in from their district, rather than press statements from national organizations.  Grassroots organizations empower local citizens and provide structure for ordinary folks who want to bring about change.

Stephen Young is the former director of HELP for Survivors, an organization for victims of gun violence. He was also former Midwest Director of the Bell Campaign, which recruited help for gun survivors and raised awareness on the issue.


“I knew we had to raise our voices”

ICHV Insights Column by Toby Hoover

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I was 30 and my husband was 33. He worked with his dad in a hardware store in Toledo, and we lived in a neighborhood we had both grown up in. Our children were 4 and 8 years old.

One day in 1973, an escaped 55 year-old convict was in a cab in Toledo, and he told the cab driver he wanted to buy some pipe. The man had bought a gun on a street corner in Detroit.

The cab driver took this man to the hardware store, which the man tried to rob. In the course of the robbery, he shot and wounded one person. He also shot and killed my husband.

Like too many people, I first got involved in the gun violence issue when I lost a loved one. Suddenly, you are thrown into a group you didn’t want to be in – survivors of victims of violence. At first, the sequence of events is absolutely unreal. I had to tell my children that their father had been killed. I didn’t understand it – and, of course, my children were too young to even try.

I was surrounded by a lot of good people, and some have stayed with me forever. We were all changed by what happened. For me, I had a family and a mom that believed that if there was something wrong in the community, you fix it. That came naturally for me: If something is wrong, I can’t be quiet about it. So, not only was this the most painful thing anyone could experience, but I knew that we had to raise our voices. My mom wrote an early letter to her congressman, telling him why she had to listen to her daughter cry all night – and asking him why he hadn’t signed on to the Kennedy-Rodino bill, which sought to strengthen gun control measures. Our congressman answered, and signed on to the bill as a co-sponsor. Our story really did move him.

While raising my kids, I was connected to various groups that worked on handgun issues — including, in the ‘80s, Handgun Control, which is now the Brady Campaign. Every now and then I also gave a talk about the issue or was a guest on a radio show.

In 1995, a young man was killed in the Toledo area, and community members came together on the issue. This young man had just graduated from high school. Soon after that happened, there were 50 people in a room, talking about how to prevent gun violence. At that time, Ohio had introduced a bill to allow people to carry concealed guns.

That year, the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence began as a volunteer committee. It had been 22 years since my husband was killed, but in many ways, we had just begun to address the issue of gun violence. From there, we successfully stopped the concealed carry bill in Ohio. We also successfully pushed for ordinances in Toledo that ban Saturday Night Specials and assault weapons, and strengthened a provision that limited child access to handguns. At that point – this was in about 1999 – we fought concealed carry one more time (of course the gun lobby was pushing it again). The law passed nine years later, but we were able to pass a lot of restrictions to it. We also helped pass assault weapons bans in Columbus and Shaker Heights, Ohio. Along the way, we fought the pre-emption of local laws, the weakening of the concealed carry law and the state’s so-called Castle law, which allows one to shoot first and ask questions later. We have also long campaigned for universal background checks on gun sales. Nationally, we also continue to advocate for assault weapons bans and background checks. In addition, we continue to oppose the carrying of guns in schools, bars, our national parks and on trains.

Today, we have to keep up the fight. Look at the world around us. People who oppose us act like it’s normal behavior for anyone to walk around with guns in their pockets almost anywhere. The pre-emption of local law is a huge danger that takes away our right to govern our city. And, of course, we don’t have strong enough laws for background checks on all gun sales. At the state level – and this is true in many states – legislators have been frightened off by the gun lobby. They are convinced they won’t be re-elected unless they support the gun lobby, and historically that has not been true.

We have to keep pulling together like-minded coalitions and talk in broader terms about violence – not just gun violence. I am talking about bringing together children’s groups, organizations that focus on domestic violence, faith groups, parents and many others. We are all in this together.

Meanwhile, we must also take advantage of opportunities – like the internet. We now can communicate more easily with one another and the general public, and that’s helping us grow.

While we must go to the statehouse to be heard, we must also raise awareness about guns and gun violence to the general public. We have found that so many people believe we register and license all firearms, and have adequate background checks in this country. Of course, we don’t.

What is our opposition is doing? Well, what they are really good at is using fear tactics. Ultimately, what they are trying to do is get people to buy more guns.

I think what keeps me going is that I know so many good people who are working together to prevent gun violence. Over the years, it has also been so important that my kids have been totally supportive – they never had a doubt that I was doing what I should. When I think of the future, I also look at my grandkids. I am so happy that they see the importance of this work as well. What do my grandkids see? They see that we remain as committed as ever to preventing gun violence in our communities so they and their families can be safer.

Toby Hoover is Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.


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Keeping Guns Off Campus

ICHV Insights Column by Andy Pelosi

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Mention the words “Virginia Tech” or “Northern Illinois University” and what do people remember? These two schools are probably the best-known examples of the horrifying consequences guns can have on a college campus. Thirty-two students and faculty were killed at Virginia Tech in 2007; 15 were wounded. Six students were killed and 16 were wounded at Northern Illinois University in 2008.

We must ask: How can we help prevent gun violence from happening on college campuses?

The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus addresses this issue by generating awareness about the gun lobby’s push to arm students on colleges campuses. http://www.keepgunsoffcampus.org

We aim to stop legislation that would allow people to carry concealed weapons on campus.

This campaign is a timely one: one of the key ingredients missing in the movement to stop gun violence is college students.

The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus was launched in December of 2008. My partners on this project are John Johnson, former director of Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence, and Scott Vogel, our Chicago-based communications director.

Thus far, 178 four-year schools (the majority of which are public) from 33 states have signed a one-page resolution confirming their opposition to guns on campus. Our allies also include the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Brady Campaign and the Legal Community Against Violence.

Through this campaign, we are finding more and more colleges and universities that are opposed to having guns on campus. The number of students who feel this way is growing as well. On the other side, though, legislation has been introduced by the gun lobby, which has an opposite goal. While the absurdity of allowing guns on college campuses is clear to many of us, let’s keep in mind that many members of the gun lobby are fighting hard to arm students.

On the surface, it would appear that allowing guns on campus in this country is just not something that college administrators will let happen. There is only one state, Utah, that allows guns on college campuses. Twenty-five states have statutes that forbid guns on campus. Twenty-three states leave it up to schools to decide what their weapons policies should say – and almost every school has said “no” to guns on campus. Outside of 10 public schools covered by the Utah law, only two colleges elsewhere in the U.S. now permit the carrying of guns. There are also new rules in Colorado, with a challenge to allowing guns on campus pending before the state’s highest court. In April of 2010, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that public universities have “no authority to ban guns.” Now, the University of Colorado is appealing this ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court. We will be keeping a close eye on this case, which could have an impact on all two and four-year public colleges and universities in the state.

In reality, there are many reasons to be concerned and take a strong stand on this issue, as the gun lobby basically tries to push guns wherever it can.

For one, let’s remember the Supreme Court ruling in the McDonald case this June. The court held that individuals have the right to keep and bear arms – and that the law applies to states (the court’s decision was a narrow one and also said that schools are places where guns should not be allowed). In addition, groups of students promoting conceal carry policies on campuses are well-organized.

Over the last several years, the gun lobby has introduced bills advocating for guns on campus in about 20 states. In particular, the gun lobby has actively tried to pass bills in Texas, Louisiana, Missouri and other states to allow guns on college campuses. Last year in Texas, for example, the Senate passed a bill that would have allowed guns on college campuses. Time ran out before the House could pass the bill. We have no doubt that the gun lobby will continue to push this issue.

Simply put, we want to help stop any legislation of this nature when it is introduced. It’s also essential that we raise public awareness about the importance of keeping college campuses gun-free. The fact is that colleges and universities are much safer than the communities around them and that the availability of guns is unlikely to improve that. One Justice Department study reported that 93 percent of violence against college students age 18 to 24 occurs off campus.

It will likely seem obvious to many people why we would oppose the presence of guns on college campuses. However, we need to share these reasons – and keep talking about them. Arming students would make campuses more dangerous. Armed students would be accountable to no one. And arming students would not deter the rare campus shooting.

We offer support to state-based organizations around the country. If, for example, there is a bill moving in a state, we can provide information, letters to the editor and share information that might be used in testimony on this issue. We can also mobilize people electronically. We have also been working to involve parents as well as students in this campaign.

The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus provides people with background information on this issue and encourages them to get involved in a number of ways.  This fall, one of our goals will be to expand our reach by encouraging community colleges and boards of regents to support this campaign.

Our goal is very basic: We want to see gun violence reduced in this country. College campuses are places our culture has always deemed to be very safe. They are places where future leaders have a chance to grow. We are confident that keeping campuses gun-free is the safest strategy for all of us.

Andy Pelosi is president of GunFreeKids.org, an advocacy organization which provides tools for people to take action on pending state and national legislation on gun violence prevention policies. The organization also assists voters nationwide in learning about and supporting state-based candidates who favor sound gun violence prevention policies. The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus is a project of GunFreeKids.org

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September 10, 2010: ICHV Acknowledges World Suicide Prevention Day

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Part of the mission of ICHV, to reduce the incidence of death and injury caused by gun violence, is to tackle the issue of suicide. When people think about gun violence, images that come to mind are often violence in streets involving criminals, or even accidents in the home. What many fail to realize is that suicide is the leading cause of gun deaths in the United States. More than 40 people die every day in this country from suicide with a gun.

As a member of the Illinois Suicide Prevention Alliance, ICHV encourages you to join the National Suicide Prevention Alliance’s efforts today and Take 5 To Save Lives. This campaign asks supporters to take the 5 following steps. 1) Learn the signs 2) Join the movement 3) Spread the word 4) Support a friend and 5) Reach out if you need help. For more information on the Take 5 To Save Lives campaign, and suicide prevention, please visit www.take5tosavelives.org

There is no doubt that easy access to guns not only increases the lethality of a suicide attempt, but also makes an attempt more likely to occur in the first place. In fact, a gun in the home is 11 times more likely to be used in an attempt at suicide than in self-defense. And, simply by keeping a gun in the home, the risk of a suicide increases 5 times, as compared to homes without guns.

With over half of all suicides in the US being committed with guns and 92% of suicide attempts with guns that prove to be fatal, it is clear to see how reducing the incidents of these tragic acts is an important aspect of the ICHV mission. We urge you to take a moment today and Take 5 To Save Lives.
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Julio Tellez

Student art work by Julio Tellez

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Julio Tellez:

Troubling Images of Gun Violence

There may be nothing surprising about it when a mother praises an artwork or other creation made by her child. In the case of Julio Tellez’ mother Esmeralda though, her son’s drawing for ICHV’s “Student Voices” contest carries an extra poignancy. That’s because it reflects her own upbringing amidst violence in a Chicago community.

Julio, who will be a freshman this fall at Tilden Tech, created a powerful drawing that fuses stories he has been told about his family’s (and, in particular, his mother’s) past with his own imagination and the troubling world of gun violence. In the drawing, a pregnant woman is pregnant with a baby that has a gun attached to it. She is standing on top of a gun that points directly at a terrified teenager. The image also includes a machine that, Julio says, play violent games for kids. And, in the background, two children are watching a TV that is broadcasting some kind of gun violence.

Meanwhile, in the distance, atop a hill, is a stark image of a graveyard.

The drawing is partly based on what Julio knows about his mom’s life. “My mom moved away from a violent neighborhood, where people in her family were joining gangs and doing drugs,” he says. (Neither Julio nor his mother wanted to identify the neighborhood, except to say that it is located in the city). “She decided that she didn’t want her kids to grow up in that environment.” Today, Julio, his mom, his stepfather and eight siblings (three brothers and five sisters) live together in a house in Chicago’s Back of the Yards community.

“When people are raised in the wrong environment, it’s going to lead to someone having a gun,” says Julio, who created his artwork while he was a student at Daley Academy on the south side. His art teacher, Ms. Puentes, encouraged him to participate in the “Student Voices” contest.

Julio says he has not been able to completely avoid violence in his community. He was robbed earlier this summer, and does not know if the robbers had a gun. “I was with my little brother and two friends. I was kind of scared. Still,” he says, “I believe it’s not where you live – it’s how you live.”

Though one reason his mother moved to the Back of the Yards community was to avoid violence, Julio says matter-of-factly that gangs have “shot in front of our house a few times.”

“Gun violence is something I worry about a lot,” he says. “I think that one of the only things that can help kids face it is parents. If parents don’t know where their kids are at 2 in the morning, I’m pretty sure there’s a problem.”

At night, Julio says, we definitely “stay in the house.”

Over the years, Julio’s mother says her guidance to Julio and her other children has, at times, been direct and practical. “I taught my kids early how to duck to the ground,” she says. “I’ve had two-year-olds who know how to drop to the ground. She says the family “hears gunshots at night five times a week.”

Though she moved away from home when she was 18 and still faces the reality of gun violence, Ms. Tellez retains faith in young people, including her son. She says “Julio has always drawn powerful things with a lot of meaning, so his drawings are not a surprise to me.”

She does, however, hope that more people listen to what kids are saying. “More good things about what kids do and say need to come to the public’s attention,” she says. “I see kids who are aware, but they don’t have people backing them up.”


Rian Knox:

“I had a friend who got shot and killed last year”


Rian Knox remembers, and she is not likely to forget. Amidst national debates over gun violence, Rion is one of those people who speaks from real experience.

“I had a friend who got shot and killed last year,” says Rian, who graduated in June from Corliss High School in the Roseland community on the city’s south side. “His name was Dequarrius Cannon. He was sitting in a car, I think he was getting robbed at the time. He was 17. I had known him since grammar school.”

“We had lost touch,” she says. “We just started seeing each other again last year.”

Newspaper reports of the young man’s death said that the morning after he was shot, his grandmother was “still wearing a shirt stained with her grandson’s blood.”

How has Rian responded to her friend’s death, and to the issue of gun violence? One way is by expressing her feelings in an artwork for Student Voices, the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence’s annual art, poetry and essay contest for area students. For Rian and many other students, the contest provides a forum through which they can express their views on the subject.

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Student art work by Rian Knox

Rian, who learned about the Student Voices contest from her graphic design teacher at Corliss High School, created an image of the state of Illinois. Take one look inside, and you see numerous images of guns. “It’s the State of Mind,” the artwork says in bold letters across the top. “State of Illinois,” it says on the bottom.

“What I did was kept it as simple and powerful as I could. I came across an image of the United States, configured so that it looks like it is made of guns. I thought, why not just make an image of Illinois like that.”

The border of Rian’s prize-winning picture features images of the city’s skyline. Scattered throughout the drawing are airbrushed red splotches that stand for blood – blood that inevitably results from gun violence.

Like many participants in the Student Voices contest, Rian has seen the effects of violence up close in her neighborhood – even before her friend was shot. “I’ve seen people get jumped on, seen mob action in front of my eyes.”

“Kids don’t have anyone to look up to,” she says. “When they don’t have that support, all they have to do is turn to the street.”

“I was robbed at gunpoint one year, the day after Christmas,” adds Rian, who has a younger brother and older brother. “That really took a toll on me. I was flabbergasted, very scared. I prayed about it. The police found the guys who did it eventually, and they got what they deserved.”

“There’s so much peer pressure, and people trying to get you into the same position they’re in,” she says.

This summer, Rian is working with youth as a counselor at the South Side Help Center, which runs an after-school program and summer camp. The programs offered by the Center include workshops that cover topics like drugs, gun prevention and peer pressure and are presented to kids between the ages of 10 and 15.

Rian came to the program when she was in seventh grade and she was “in trouble. I was really hardheaded and stubborn. If something didn’t go my way, I wouldn’t do it.” “I had a tough time in junior high school, but by when I got to high school, I was on the honor roll.” Now, she is helping young people just as the organization helped her.

Meanwhile, college is the next step for Rian. Later this year, she will enroll at Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama, where she will major in mass communications and business marketing.

Her thoughts, however, are never too far from the city where she grew up. “We’ve got to prevent gun violence from happening in the first place,” she says. “It’s really deadly out here – especially for young kids.”


Haley Loquercio:

“The bang of a gun silences all”

Haley Loquercio lives with her parents and younger sister in a neighborhood on the city’s far northwest side where very little gun violence occurs. And yet, Haley – who will start 8th grade this fall at St. Eugene School near her home – has learned how guns can impact people and a neighborhood: her father Jeff is a Chicago police officer who has worked on the force for 15 years. He currently serves as a police officer in the 25th (Grand Central) district.

“My dad is a police officer, so he has to sometimes break up fights or even find someone who has been killed,” says Haley. “Sometimes if I see a really bad shooting on the news, my dad would say ‘I know a police officer who had to be there. It makes it more real.”

In June, Haley received an award for ICHV’s “Student Voices” competition for her poem “City Nights.” She says she “likes writing poetry, and stuff that everyone can connect to. That, she suggests, can mean just about everyone in the city. “Guns are in our communities, video games, music and in the news,” she adds. It’s good to use your creativity to let people know what you think about.”

“Gun violence can seem unreal – how could anyone do that to another human being?,” asks Haley. “But you see it on the news. Why waste someone else’s life – and maybe your own?”

In her poem, she puts it this way: “In the middle of the night/You can hear the shouts of a fight/Until the bang of a gun silences all/That is, of course, ‘till the police come to call.”

When asked what she would tell policymakers, she says “I would them ‘thanks for your hard work, here are some things I would like to have done.’” Then, without irony she says “And maybe they should make sure gun laws are enforced.”

Meanwhile, Jeff Loquercio says we can easily blame gun violence on a lot of things in our culture – like video games and TV – “but it all starts in the home. You have to take responsibility for your kids.”

He says that he taught his kids that guns weren’t toys. “My kids don’t ask to see it, and I put it in a safe,” he says.

“Being part of a police officer’s family,” adds Haley’s mom, Christine, “I think we have to have a heightened awareness about this issue. It’s so important that kids are aware that if you are not authorized to hold a gun, you don’t hold it.”

Both Jeff and Christine Loquercio say that gun violence is considerably more prevalent today than it was when they were kids. “Year ago,” says Jeff, who grew up in 1970s and 1980s, you used to see sticks and bats, and that was it. Now, it’s easier to shoot someone.”

Christine says she “wasn’t aware [Haley] was so in tune with what’s going on out there before I heard her poem.” There are many possible responses to gun violence, but after reading her daughter’s poem and attending the ICHV event on the “Student Voices” contest in June, Christine says she saw firsthand what kids can bring to the issue. “We have to emphasize how important it is to listen to the kids when they express themselves on a very important topic. They know what’s going on. Sometimes we try to shield them – and then they tell us what’s going on.”

Haley Loquercio has another idea. “Maybe if adults see that these kids can get involved, adults can do more. Like take the gun violence issue up with the government.”


Luis Angel Contreras:

“My cousin was shot and killed”


“My cousin was shot and killed,” says Luis.

“He was only 21 or 22 years old. I think somebody mistook him for a gang member from another neighborhood.” “We were real close, and he wasn’t the kind of guy who was always in trouble.

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Student art work by Luis Angel Contreras

He was a positive person,” adds Luis, who is a senior at North Grand High School and lives north of the city’s Humboldt Park neighborhood Memories of that tragedy have haunted Luis for years, and this year he says an image of his cousin inspired him when he created a powerful drawing that was one of the winners at ICHV’s 14th Annual Student Voices Contest.

The fiery drawing shows how a scroll – representing the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment – envelops a city scene in which buildings are covered with blood and the American flag is being burned and ripped apart. Two giant guns, one on each side of the drawing, appear to be shooting flames. Under the flames, instead of ashes, is a tragic result of gunfire: tears.

“These are tears,” says Luis, “from grandmothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, friends – everyone who can be affected by gun violence.”

Luis was very deliberate about constructing this image. “This drawing was originally going to be an extra credit project for my art class, but I had to take it a step further,” he says. “My main motivation was the image of my cousin, which
kept coming up.”

He looked over different pictures of downtown Chicago for his artwork, including those of the Hancock building and Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. He also had a picture he took when he was downtown. “Every time I draw something, I do it from the heart,” says Luis, who is interested in a career in mechanical engineering.



Monica Martinez:

Telling Story of Gun Violence in Images – and Life

Monica Martinez remembers the day a friend showed her images from a website of people who had been shot. The images have stuck with her as she comes to terms with gun violence – and creates artwork that expresses how she feels.

Monica won an award in June for a powerful drawing she submitted for ICHV’s Student Voices contest. The drawing shows a vivid picture of a young boy staring out at the world – and, of course, any person who sees the drawing. A gun in the shape of a hand is pointed at his head. The message on top of the drawing: “Guns Don’t Shoot Bullets of Peace.” On the bottom it says “Increase the Peace – Shun the Gun.”

Monica drew this piece while she was a student at the Pulaski Fine Arts Academy in Bucktown, not far from where she lives. This fall, she will be a freshman at Lane Tech College Prep High School. She lives in Bucktown with her mother; her aunt and five cousins live downstairs in the same building. This summer, Monica attended a film camp at Facets Multimedia and will be traveling to Mexico with family.

Talking to Monica – like many kids who entered the contest – one can quickly see how gun violence impacts many different aspects of a young person’s life. Monica speaks of how she is exposed to various forms of violence in video games (and the Internet), in her neighborhood, at school – and even in a trash can just outside the door of her home.

She vividly recalls how video games distorted her view of real gun violence. “I really didn’t pay attention to the gore part,” she says. “When playing a video game, you don’t really think of the person being hurt. You’re thinking that you just passed a level in the game.”

“I think,” she says, “that a lot of kids don’t realize it’s not all fun and games. I think they underestimate the power of a bullet.”

At school in Bucktown, she relates how “a couple of friends considered bringing weapons to school. One kid wanted to bring a BB gun to school. It was confiscated. He wasn’t actually going to use it, but you’re bound to shoot someone handling a BB gun if you’re a little too goofy at that age.”

In her neighborhood, Monica says she once heard a gunshot – and when she looked outside she saw a guy falling from the shot. She says paramedics came “superquick” and the victim was OK.

One time, she adds, “a man left a gun in our trash can at home. My uncle was cleaning out everything, and he pulled out a gun. I ran to see it. Later, a man said he left something in the trash, and he said he was going to do something to us. We were scared and called the police.”

Monica adds almost stoically that “it is not at all safe to walk in my neighborhood at night.” She doesn’t emphasize this reality – it’s just a fact of everyday life in her community.

Meanwhile, she sometimes recalls those troubling images her friend once shared with her. “I keep coming back to the realization that this is not about games. Imagine what can happen.” Now, her own drawings are depicting the same issue in a very different way. The little boy in her drawing innocently looks at you when you view her drawing. He’s not scared or happy, according to Monica. He may not yet know the consequences of gun violence. “He’s a child looking to you for help or guidance,” she says. “As if he is asking: Is this really OK – or not?”



The Link Between Firearms and Suicide

Interview: Catherine Barber, Director, Means Matter Campaign at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center

How did you get involved in suicide prevention?

I was in charge of designing and testing out the pilot for what is now the National Violent Death Reporting System, and in the course of that I must have read through 5,000 thumbnail summaries of suicide deaths. I found the cases so compelling not only because of the tragedies they represented, but also because of the little bits of hope that you’d come across, clues as to what may have saved the person.

It changed my view of suicide – made me more aware of how many different types of suicide there are: some very carefully planned, others decided on in an instant, for example during the height of a big family argument or during a police chase.

Why does some of your work focus on firearms & suicide?

I think reducing a suicidal person’s access to firearms is an incredibly simple, concrete, doable step that can save lives—something that families concerned about a possibly suicidal family member can easily do by temporarily storing the guns elsewhere until the crisis subsides or by locking the guns up. One very consistent finding in the psychological autopsy studies and the mortality follow-back studies in the U.S. when they compare people who died by suicide with demographically-matched people who didn’t die by suicide is that a firearm in the home is a risk factor for suicide, particularly an unlocked gun. The ecologic studies by my colleagues here at the injury center – Matt Miller, David Hemenway, and Deb Azrael – found the same thing: in communities with more guns there were higher rates of suicide overall and higher rates of firearm suicide, but, tellingly, not higher rates of other types of suicide and not higher rates of mental illness or suicide attempts. So it isn’t that people in more gun dense areas are more suicidal, it’s that they’re more likely to die in a suicide attempt. And you can see why: you pull the trigger, and you’re pretty much assured of dying. It’s like a step off the Golden Gate Bridge. You can’t take it back. With nearly every other suicide method, there’s a better chance than with a gun that the person will survive the attempt. Either the method may fail or the person may change their mind mid-attempt or someone might come upon them and rescue them. The case fatality rates for most other methods are lower than for guns, for some methods incredibly lower. So making the gun unavailable will save lives – clearly not all lives, but some, particularly so in the case of impulsive, unplanned suicides. And there have been tons of studies that have followed suicide attempters over time and found that 90% do not go on to die by suicide later after a failed attempt, even studies that followed only very serious attempters like those who jumped in front of a train.

What is the Means Matter campaign trying to accomplish?

We surveyed the organizations in each of the 50 states that are responsible for creating the state’s suicide prevention plan (just about every state has one). Nearly all of the directors said they understand that firearm access is a risk factor for suicide, and most of the state plans mention reducing access to lethal means of suicide. But hardly any were doing anything about it. Why? Because they thought it meant advocating for gun control, a political no-go for them. But Means Matter isn’t about changing laws. It’s about working to make sure that anytime a family member or a provider or a school official is concerned that a person is suicidal, one of the standard things they ask is whether there are any guns at home and advise that the family store the guns elsewhere until the situation improves, or, second best, very securely lock the guns up in such a way that the suicidal person can’t get to them. When we frame it that way a light goes on and people say, well, yeah, that we can do. That’s just common sense. So we provide trainings on this issue – both in person and online, a video, slide shows, a website (go to meansmatter.org), brochures, etc.

Don’t people already ask about guns if they’re worried a person is suicidal?

Oddly, no. Here’s an example. A teacher’s worried that a kid is suicidal and sends him to the school psychologist for an assessment. You look at the forms they use, and none of the forms ask about guns. The forms ask about family history of suicide and severity of suicidal thoughts, stuff like that, but no one’s routinely asking about what’s probably the most important determinant of whether the kid lives or dies should they actually attempt suicide. So we’re trying to get the suicide prevention advocates to work with all the different professional groups to make this standard practice, and we give them the tools to do that.

Do you work with gun retailers and owners?

Yes, another route we’ve been exploring is working with gun retailers to get the word out through gun stores and shooting ranges and shooting clubs. We definitely don’t want to have an anti-gun message or to have this campaign have anything to do, pro or con, with gun rights issues; rather, we want to encourage gun owners and retailers to talk from one gun owner to another about suicide prevention since it’s such a more prevalent problem among gun-owning families. In the past year we’ve begun working with a small committee in New Hampshire to develop a training packet aimed at gun outlets, and the gun retailers on the committee have been incredibly creative and wonderful to work with.

Catherine Barber directs the Means Matter Campaign at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center. The Campaign educates suicide prevention coalitions about the link between firearms and suicide.

Ms. Barber has also led the effort to design and pilot-test a prototype for the Centers for Disease Control’s National Violent Death Reporting System and co-founded the National Center for Suicide Prevention Training.


Dan Baron:

Guns in Public Places:
What’s Going On Here?

Walk into a Starbucks, and you are likely to be greeted by a couple of friendly baristas ready to fix you the coffee drink of your choice. Then, as you look around, in some states you could even see a group of customers openly displaying their handguns.

No, this is not a joke. It’s America. In at least 38 states, open-carry laws allow citizens to carry guns in public with few or no restrictions (Illinois is among the states that does not permit citizens to carry guns openly in public). Based on various news reports, a small but growing group of gun rights activists are using this right.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks as I write this — a Starbucks in Illinois. Sometimes I go to Starbucks with my wife and two kids. I wonder what I would say if the four of us went into a Starbucks and some guys at the next table were openly – and legally — carrying their guns. Maybe something like “Let’s leave.” Then maybe I’d want to call our state or federal legislators a few times. I don’t think I’d have to explain to anyone — except a small minority of gun owners – that the vast majority of people on the premises don’t feel safer in this situation.

The first time I heard that there were people bringing their guns into Starbucks (and other public places) in the full view of other customers, I admit that I did think it was a joke.

The whole idea makes me wonder: What is happening in this country?

The gun culture in the United States has gotten so out of hand that I am starting to think many of us just accept it. Nothing we can do about it. And yet, when I read about a group of gun-carrying citizens walking into Starbucks or gun advocates promoting conceal carry laws, it’s time to share a few basic thoughts about how guns, and gun rights, are viewed in this country.

I’ve read in many places how this story is really about “gun rights.” Certain issues seem to pop up frequently when we start talking about that subject. First, we often hear how some gun advocates wrap themselves in the Constitution, saying that the Second Amendment protects their rights to “bear arms.” What we rarely hear these days, however, is that there are many interpretations of the Second Amendment (see, for example, Garry Wills’ book “A Necessary Evil,” which, among other things, deconstructs the idea that our Constitution promises individual gun ownership). The last time I checked, the Constitution is not owned by people who purchase weapons.

Another common misconception that is perpetuated by some gun rights advocates is that supporters of gun control want to “take away” guns from gun owners. In particular, I have heard frequent concerns that, somehow, there’s a group of people out there who want to stop gun owners from hunting, going to firing ranges or otherwise using guns for sport. I have interviewed violence prevention and gun control advocates for the last fifteen years, and I can remember exactly how many times someone has said Americans should not be allowed to do these things — zero times.

I am also reminded of a time when I had dinner at a friend’s house in central Illinois with about half a dozen guys. One of the men was a hunter and brought a few dishes to the dinner, including stews filled with meat from game he had hunted himself. Our conversation was both civil and respectful. He did not, however, feel a need to bring a gun to the dinner.

I would love to have a civil conversation about gun rights issues with people who are trying to make a public statement by bringing guns into a public place like Starbucks.
Still, it’s hard under any circumstances to imagine having a discussion with these gun advocates on this issue — and that’s the point. They don’t want to talk.

I would like to be wrong here, but I think what we’re talking about is an “us vs. them” mentality. I wonder, if the people who bring guns into a Starbucks or another public place, are that committed to their rights and the Constitution, why won’t they talk about what they believe in a public forum? I’m guessing it’s because their vision of America doesn’t include an open discussion of issues. More to the point, since the NRA has had some success at pushing public officials around, maybe they figure there’s no reason to change their course.

As I sit here in this Starbucks, I am reminded of all the ways gun control advocates tell the tragic story of gun violence in this country through the stories of victims, by sharing research and in other ways. The reality that Americans can, and do, openly bring guns into public places tells me that that there is another way to tell this story. It’s also time to broadcast, loud and clear, the fact that the guy drinking coffee at the next table carried a gun into this place. He just might be his own worst enemy: the more that people know about him, the more likely it is that people will notice something outrageous is going on. Meanwhile, the next time he says he’s promoting gun rights, it’s time to ask: “What about our rights? And how does this make us safer?”

Dan Baron is a writer and journalist based in Chicago who has written extensively about violence prevention, education and other social issues for a wide range of nonprofit organizations.


ICHV Speakers’ Bureau

One of ICHV’s most important activities is educating Illinois residents about the dangers of guns through speaking engagements across the state. ICHV utilizes our Speakers Bureau to educate the public and to spread awareness about gun violence issues. ICHV staff, board, and volunteers help coordinate engagements and give presentations at a variety of organizations around Illinois, free of charge.

Any organization can contact the ICHV office in Chicago or Springfield to request a speaker. Our Speakers Bureau makes presentations to various groups throughout the state to raise awareness about gun violence, and our speakers tailor their presentations to meet the needs of the specific audience, using ICHV resources and research. Our goal is to create presentations specific to the interests of the audience to the best of our ability.

If you are interested in arranging for a speaker to come to your organization or event, please contact us at our Chicago office (312) 341-0939, or our Springfield office (217) 744-7383.