Citizens, special interest groups debate guns

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When a crowd of gang members swarmed the yard of his Austin home last year, Pheyon Thomas didn’t have a handgun to fight back. He didn’t dare wait around for the police, he said; his teenage daughter’s safety was at stake.

So Thomas protected his family the only way he knew how – by bluffing.

“I faked a lot of it,” Thomas said. “Thank God, it started raining.”

That incident brought Thomas, along with dozens of other residents, to a town hall meeting last week on “concealed-carry” legislation, which would allow Illinois citizens to carry concealed, loaded handguns in public.

While exact laws vary nationwide, Illinois is now the only state with no law allowing everyday citizens to carry concealed weapons. Wisconsin – which until recently sided with Illinois in prohibiting concealed-carry – recently passed a law allowing the practice. It will take effect Nov. 1.

Thursday’s event brought out fiery debate from residents, many of whom had lost loved ones to gunfire, and from a panel that included a victim of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, one of the plaintiffs of the landmark McDonald v. Chicago case, and other handgun advocates and opponents.

Frequently drawing on the Second Amendment, concealed-carry proponents argued that citizens should be allowed to carry guns to defend themselves from armed criminals.

“If I could push a button and every firearm on this earth would disappear, that would be fine,” said gun-rights advocate David Lemieuz, a 26-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. “Last thing I checked, that button doesn’t exist … The lambs have to stop begging the wolves to behave.”

Colleen Lawson, a plaintiff in McDonald v. Chicago, said she has supported concealed-carry since her three children were attacked in gun incidents.

“I don’t want them to end up in a situation like (fellow panelist, Virginia Tech shooting victim) Garrett (Evans), where he’s cowering and waiting for someone else to come save him,” Lawson said, eliciting murmurs from some gun-control advocates in the audience.

Opponents, on the other hand, argued that legalized concealed-carry would put more guns in the hands of criminals, leading to further violence on the streets and in-home accidents and youth suicides.

Chicago Police Chief Ernest Brown, attending on behalf of Supt. Garry McCarthy, said concealed handguns would pose a serious danger to police officers and the public.

“The only way we can ever hope to reduce the amount of violence is to reduce the number of handguns,” Brown said. He added that 2010 was Chicago’s least violent year since 1965, with 435 reported homicides. Eighty-eight percent of those were related to firearms, Brown said.

Gun-control advocate Tom VandenBerk, who lost a son to gun violence, blamed gun manufacturers’ lobbying for loose firearms laws, stating their actions are putting weapons into the hands of criminals.

“Whether we’re the last state or not, I think we should be proud of that fact,” he said. “We have a national epidemic here.”

Concealed-carry legislation is not new in Springfield. A bill to legalize concealed weapons was proposed in the Illinois House in January, but was shot down in May and sent back to committee after Gov. Pat Quinn threatened to veto it.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), who organized Thursday’s town hall, did not state his position on the issue. Ford voted “present” – avoiding a “yes” or “no” vote – on HB 148 earlier this year.

While most of the audience members appeared to support concealed-carry, many appeared to be affiliated with special interest groups. The majority of attendees did not live within Ford’s 8th District, according to an informal show of hands at Ford’s request.

Rev. Michael Pfleger, an ardent gun-control advocate, also attended but did not speak publicly. Pfleger arrived with a group of parishioners but denied Ford’s invitation to take a seat at the panel.

(Here’s what our partners at the Austin Weekly News reported on last week’s event.)

6 thoughts on “Citizens, special interest groups debate guns

  1. Everyone seems to forget that New Jersey, although it is a “may issue” state, NEVER issues permits to qualified citizens. If you are politically connected you might get one. If you are threatened with rape or murder……sorry, you are not allowed to legally protect yourself unless you are in your house…..even then, you have a duty to retreat until you are completely blocked in by your attacker.

    So, when I hear that Illinois is the only state that does not issue ccw, I feel compelled to correct the reporters and the rest of the country.

    Living in the peoples republic of NJ

  2. Here’s the problem for anti gun nuts.
    I think if you don’t like our constitution move out of our country it’s a right we have were not going to give up on were goin to carry as I have with or without a liscense period I will carry a gun allways.
    I do have a liscense and I am legal and as far as I am concearned have allways been legal.
    I have been arrested for unlawfully carryIng a handgun Wich os my constitutional right.
    I will as all my freinds probably save your dumb asses from a nut at some point as I am not afraid to use the gun in protecting life at all.
    It’s not something we ever want to happen but it does and stopping people like myself from carrying a gun just isn’t going to happen at all.
    As I said unlawful or not we my family will continue to carry at all costs and protect your dumb ass and our selves if necessary. I say if you don’t like the law of this land move to England and be a victim or you can be one here just be it and shut up about it it’s your choice.
    As for real Americans we know it’s a right we’ve had allways and will continue to carry as our children will also at all costs period.

  3. dont states that have concealed weapons laws also have lower murder rates? and lets say you can blink and all the guns are gone.people who want to kill other people will then use bats or we then ban bats and knifes? the real reason that guns are used is poverty and education.I think the number is close to 80% of people in chicago that used a gun in a murder had a income below 10.000 and a education no higher then 9th or tenth grade.if we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and start putting massive amounts of money into education we would reap the benifits ten years down the sounds cliche but guns dont kill people,people kill people.

    • “if we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and start putting massive amounts of money into education we would reap the benifits ten years down the sounds cliche but guns dont kill people,people kill people.”

      Unfortunately, there is NO evidence whatsoever that dumping money into education achieves any positive outcome. The only things that work are a cultural shift in which the students and parents both value education and work hard on it…this has nothing to do with money.

      Look up the research by Harold Stevenson.

  4. Mookie,

    We’ve already spent BILLIONS on “public education”, resulting in stupid students, lazy teachers, and rich unions, for starters. I say do away with the NEA, the Dept. of Edumacation, and federal control/extortion of our educational system, fire lazy/ineffective teachers, do away with “tenure”, and return it all to local control.

    As to poverty, see above.

    Also, repeal virtually ALL “gun control” laws, because a.) they don’t work; b.) they only affect law-abiding citizens; and c.) they don’t work. Guns don’t kill anybody, period. If guns kill people, all of mine are defective.

    20 year military man, small arms expert, and former cop; what could I know about it?

    Pfleger? Isn’t this the “priest” that advocated killing gun shop owners? Wonder what the Good Lord thinks about his position on the issue? The last folks I’d take firearms advice from are ignorant leftist fools that know nothing of the subject.

    TSgt B

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