Category Archives: Public Policy

2011 Congress Attendees Continue to Advocate for Peace

When the cameras were turned towards Rev. Philip Blackwell at Governor Quinn’s press conference with the Illinois Anti-Violence Commission, the question on his mind was, “how did I get here?”

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

In May, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn convened a press conference to hear statements from the Commission regarding Illinois H.B. 148.  The bill, dubiously named “the Family and Personal Protection Act”, would have allowed individuals with permits to carry concealed, loaded firearms in public places like restaurants, restrooms, playgrounds, hospitals, malls, banks, and on public transportation.

After the public action at the 2011 Congress, on issues regarding gun violence and the availability of handguns, SCUPE was pleased to hear that the Commission unanimously opposed the current conceal and carry legislation.  The Governor also came out strong against handgun proliferation saying he would stand with the majority of Illinois residents who oppose concealed carry and veto this bill should it find its way to his desk.

Rev. Blackwell gave one of many moving testimonies at the press conference.  He expertly made the case that H.B. 148 would make Illinois Residents not safer, but more vulnerable.  He cited research from Harvard University which concludes that “in homes, cities, and states where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide”.

Blackwell, who had earlier spoken with the Deputy Governor Cristal Thomas as a part of the delegation of the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry, credited the Congress as the reason he was up in front of the cameras.  Referencing the critical influence of faith communities he stated, “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 people’s 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 that it will make us safer the facts say otherwise.”

2011 Congress Anti-violence Vigil at Thompson Center

SCUPE and the delegates at its 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry thank Governor Quinn for responding to our public action and to majority view of citizens by opposing public policy that is contrary to the common good.  Due to the Governor’s stance, H.B. 148 is currently dead in the water, leaving Illinois and Wisconsin as the two states without conceal carry.

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


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 from the Deputy Governor of Illinois

2011 Congress Anti-violence Vigil at Thompson Center

Minutes after the Congress concluded yesterday, we received a letter from the Deputy Governor of Illinois Ms. Cristal Thomas. It does not commit the Governor to oppose specific legislation such as “concealed carry” that is currently before the Illinois house, but at least acknowledges our visit. She re-states what she said to the delegation who visited her that the “Governor is fully committed to reducing violence in our state.” During the visit I said to her that those who propose “concealed carry” are also for reducing violence. The question is, whether he will reduce violence by reducing guns on our streets.

Still it is good to get an acknowledgment. But it is only the first step. Our work has just begun!

– Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana

Dr. Cornel West

The esteemed Dr. Cornel West has been making a deluge of media appearances in the past weeks and has been raising the level of discourse around President Barack Obama, issues of race and justice, and the future of this country.  He is earning his reputation as one of the moral voices of conscience in America.

Even as a self-proclaimed fan of Cornel West I have not been able to keep up with the man so, half as a note to myself and half as a public service announcement, I offer here links to video, audio, or text from some of Dr. West’s resent appearances.  If there are more noteworthy appearances that I have missed please feel free to link to them below.

Cornel West on the Ed Show on MSNBC (video) – 8/4/10

Cornel West on NPR’s Talk of the Nation (audio and transcript) – 8/2/10

Cornel West on Face the Nation (video) – 7/25/10

Cornel West at West Virginia University (brief excerpt) – 4/2/10

Cornel West on Race-Talk (audio and transcript) – 2/23/10

New York Times article on Cornel West – 1/22/10

Unfortunately, Violence is not just a Chicago Problem

Chicago And Minneapolis skylines

I have really come to love Chicago, that endlessly bustling city next to an endlessly stretching lake, but I do have to admit more than the occasional pang of longing for the city I grew up in.  Minneapolis and St. Paul are like toddler cousins compared to Chicago but they do share some great commonalities with their diverse and expansive fields of art, cuisine, music, and a distinctly Midwestern urban beauty.  Unfortunately, these cities also share a struggle with violence that is becoming increasingly common in American cities of all sizes and localities.

Just this past weekend my parents passed on a letter to the editor from the laudable Minneapolis rag the Star Tribune.  I can’t help but feel that the experience of this European sums up a perspective that we Americans may be too close to see.  Something about our history and culture has tied us too closely with guns to really have an accurate perspective on their influence in our lives.  Perhaps it is time to lay aside some of our American self-confidence and give a patient ear to the perspective of countries that have very little problems with hand-gun homicides.  Are we really that afraid of what we’ll hear that we refuse to listen?

Here is a clipping of the letter to the editor from July 30th, Star Tribune: