Category Archives: Current Events

HB 148 Dies (for now)

Photograph by Thomas Chadwick for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.

I just received this wonderful news from Mark Walsh over at ICPGV:

Hello Everyone:

Just wanted to let you know that the Illinois House adjourned today without calling HB 148 (concealed Carry).  As you may recall the bill failed to receive the necessary votes on May 5th and the sponsor put the bill on postponed consideration with the deadline extended to today. Since the bill wasn’t called and the deadline has not been further extended-the bill dies!!!!!

Again great work.  I hope everyone reached out to those no votes from the 5th to thank them for their efforts. I reattached the list of those folks voting no-if you haven’t please take a minute to call them and thank them for standing with us!!

The fight is not over and our work isn’t done-we’ll be working on our grassroots efforts in the coming weeks as session winds down and lawmakers are back in their districts. We’ll be sending updates on those efforts shortly.  Thanks again for all the work you do on this important issue. Have a wonderful weekend!!!!

Mark J. Walsh
Campaign Director
Illinois Campaign to
Prevent Gun Violence

More Vulnerable, Not Safer

Phil Blackwell of Chicago Temple at Gov. Quinn's anti-violence

I wrote last week about Governor Pat Quinn’s press conference with the Illinois Anti-Violence Commission.  As it turns out this may have been the critical moment in the stand against H.B. 148 due to the Commission’s unanimous decision to oppose the legislation combined with the Governor’s public declaration that he would veto the vote should it come to his desk.  As of last Thursday, the bill had been officially put on “postpone consideration” (a parliamentary procedure similar to legislative life-support).  This means that H.B. 148 is down but not out.  Continued vigilance against this bill and other ill-conceived gun legislation will be an essential component of making our cities safer.

Not So Concealed CarryMany Commission members offered testimony at the press conference last Tuesday.  One of the most inspiring and pointed was the short but well-edged words shared by Rev. Phil Blackwell of First United Methodist (Chicago Temple).  Rev. Blackwell is a long-time SCUPE collaborator, member of the National Planning Committee for the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry, and pastor to at least one of us SCUPE staffers.  The witness of Rev. Blackwell and others may not have gotten a ton of play in the local and state news but their perspectives certainly deserve our ears (there are scant audio snippets here).  With Rev. Blackwell’s permission I am pleased to post the entirety of his comments in front of the big cameras:

House Bill 148, the “Family and Personal Protection Act,” is illegitimately named.  Permitting every citizen of the state of Illinois 21 or older to carry a concealed, loaded gun, with a few modest exceptions, would make us more vulnerable, not safer.

It does not take researchers at Harvard University to tell us, but, in fact, they have, that in homes, cities, and states where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.  It simply is common sense, though the truth is that most gun deaths are not homicides but about 65% are suicides.  And for children in homes with guns, the rate of death by gunshot, especially suicide or by accident, is enormous when compared to children in gun-free households.  On the streets of this city the danger is obvious, with 21 shootings just last Friday and Saturday.

We who lead religious communities see the impact of this violence since we are in the neighborhoods seven days a week – on the streets, in the shops, involved in peoples’ lives, often people in desperate situations.  So, now we are alarmed that there are people in the Illinois legislature who want to increase the presence of guns in our society by allowing people to carry them hidden and loaded wherever they go.  They say it will make us safer; the facts say otherwise.  The National Academy of Science says that there is no evidence that right-to-carry laws have an impact positively or negatively on the rate of violent crime.  A 2009 study (Branas, et. al.) concludes that actually carrying a loaded gun makes us much more vulnerable to violence.  “Individuals in possession of a gun at the time of an assault are 4.46 times more likely to be shot in the assault than persons not in possession.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, as House Bill 148 states, that the Constitution guarantees “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”  Personally, I think that is a fanciful reading of the Constitution, each citizen being his or her own militia.  But even if it were the individual’s right, it would be the wrong thing to do.  It increases the chance of being shot; it does not reduce it.

America has a fixation on guns unmatched anywhere else in the world.  We have this fantasy of the rugged gun-toting individual making things safer for all.  It is an enchanting image, but it is a lie.  The truth is that more people kill family members with guns and themselves with guns than protect themselves against an armed adversary.

I suspect at the heart of House Bill 148 is money.  There is big money in the manufacture, sale, and re-sale of guns.  There is big political money in the campaign contributions from the gun lobby, most lucratively from the NRA.  There is big money in fear; fear always sells.  But I call on members of the House of Representatives not to be afraid of big money, even if it is gun-slinging money.  Carrying guns on the streets, on our highways, into our schools, into the corner bar, into the diner, to our kids’ ball games, to the theater, to work, to the day care center, to the gym, and to the church.  The only exception in the current draft of the bill is the library; you could not carry a gun into a library, not even with a silencer.  Carrying concealed weapons will make this a more dangerous place to live, not a safer one.  It will not protect either us or our families, both the facts and common sense say so.

Philip L. Blackwell
Senior Minister
First United Methodist Church
at the Chicago Temple


Why Not Leave Afghanistan Now?

How? When?Afghanistan War

These two tiny words have dominated our national discourse regarding what is now the  longest American war.  With the advent of Osama Bin Laden’s death, this should no longer be the case.  When it comes to leaving Afghanistan, there should no longer be any questions except ‘why not now’?


For the great majority of the nation, ‘why’ hasn’t recently been an issue.  Even before the death of Bin Laden, polls have been showing that majorities in America (Washington Post/ABC News poll – 2010), Canada (Global News poll – 2010), and the United Kingdom (ComRes poll – 2009) believe that their country should bring its troops home.  Polls in three other countries with significant numbers of troops (Germany, Italy, and France) reflect even more strongly the opinion that it is time to bring the troops home.  Strangely, and a bit shamefully for this Aussie citizen, that number is right at 50% in Australia (Essential Research poll – 2009).  I suppose I could run down the other countries from GWB’s Great Coalition (aka the International Security Assistance Force) but it’s probably a moot point.  Unless, of course, you are concerned with Estonia’s 160 troop contribution.

Oh yeah, and what happened to the U.S. leave Afghanistan date of July 2011?

Obama Afghan Withdrawal July 2011

I won’t take up your or my time trying to reword the already fine arguments put forth for a recall of American troops from Afghanistan.  I will point you towards this petition organized by Rethink Afghanistan and the fine thoughts of a former Congress on Urban Ministry co-chair, longtime friend of SCUPE, and editor of Sojourners: Jim Wallis.

Rethink Afghanistan Petition

Saint Sabina Sets the Record Straight

The Faith Community of Saint Sabina  feels disrespected – and I don’t blame them.

In a full page advertisement, in the May 4th edition of the Sun Times, the leadership of Saint Sabina took on that most difficult of tasks: setting the record straight.  It is clear that the official narrative being espoused by Cardinal George doesn’t paint the clearest picture of the way events unfolded or why Father Michael Pfleger was suspended from the active ministry.

Here is the full page:

Saint Sabina advertisement from May 4, 2011 Sun Times

Work to End Gun Violence

Youth Art from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence

C. Dionte, 4th-grade

Are you an Illinois resident looking for a quick and easy way to work for peace?  Stand with Governor Quinn by opposing the proliferation of guns.

H.B. 148, which allows individuals to carry concealed, loaded guns in most public places, is moving through the Illinois General Assembly.  This bill may be voted on any day now.

If you have 60 seconds you can contact your legislator through this convenient form:

Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun ViolenceThe Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is also a great place to learn about gun issues and how to advocate for better public policy.  At their site you can:

  • get up-to-date facts and statistics
  • see recent polling data
  • learn tactics, tips, and tools for advocacy
  • connect with resources for youth
  • receive guidelines for contacting your elected officials
  • see sample e-mails, phone scripts, and letters to the editor

Imagine if every state had an organization like ICPGV! Two other wonderful regional anti-violence organizations are WAVE in Wisconsin and Citizens for a Safer Minnesota in, you guessed it, Minnesota.

Anybody know of other top notch anti-violence or public policy advocacy organizations?

Gov. Quinn Opposes Conceal and Carry for IL

2011 Congress rally at Thompson CenterTwo months ago, almost to the day, the SCUPE Congress stood outside in the still-cold Chicago air and publicly opposed conceal and carry legislation.

Proposed H.B. 148 would make it legal for a citizen to carry a concealed, loaded gun into almost every public space.  The impact of this bill become apparent once you start to think about places where loaded guns would be allowed: parks, malls, hospitals, gyms, banks, restaurants, public restrooms, subway trains and buses… Loaded guns could quickly become as ubiquitous as app-laden smart phones (and make the i-gun app even more ridiculously redundant).

Or, maybe we can all just start carrying these around?Nokia Gun-phone

This morning SCUPE president Shanta Premawardhana and I were invited to attend Governor Quinn’s press conference.  Standing with him at the podium were to twenty-some members of the Illinois Anti-Violence Commission… each of whom has experienced loss in their lives due to gun violence.

Governor Quinn opposing conceal and carry ILWe were pleased to hear that the Commission had unanimously decided to oppose the current conceal and carry legislation.  Though the context was political, the tragic human cost of violence was lifted up through moving testimonies by several members of the Commission including: Rev. Phil Blackwell from Chicago Temple, the new Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau, and Jennifer Loudon (widow of slain Chicago Police Office Thor Soderber).

Citing the public opinion of a large majority of IL residents (65% by the most recent poll) Governor Quinn then stated his opposition to the bill and, most importantly, his willingness to veto the bill should it make its way to his desk.

Kudos to Governor Quinn for taking a stand!

This bill may be voted on any day now.  Join us in standing against this dangerous legislation:

Letter to Cardinal George

The following is a letter to Cardinal George signed by Pastors of 14 Black Catholic Parishes in Chicago.  This document, as well as other correspondence relating to Father Michael Pfleger’s suspension, is available on the website of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina.

Letter to Cardinal George regarding Father PflegerLetter to Cardinal George regarding Father Pfleger