By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
There was a steady stream of people bringing their weapons to Saint Sabina Church Saturday in a city where 1,030 people so far have been shot this year. New Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said he’s got something for those shooters, and they won’t like it either.
They patiently waited in line to receive a $100 Visa card per gun and $10 for replica and BB-guns. Clutching the case, one man turned in his grandfather’s old hunting guns.
While Father Michael L. Pfleger was outside greeting and directing people carrying guns inside the church, Johnson was inside examining some weapons piled high on several tables and getting briefed by deputy chief Eric Washington. He then held court with the press.
Asked if he was surprised at the number of rifles, Johnson said, “I think most Chicagoans have no idea of how pervasive this gun issue is, but this is a snapshot of the amount of guns on the street.
“The violence has spiked up, but I can tell you this that the upside is we’ve seen the pace slowed…. We’re going to continue to build on that pace….”
Johnson credits that to police officers being more engaged and the community members helping along with politicians, the clergy—“all of us together….”
Johnson gave a warning to gun owners who didn’t turn in their weapons.
“People out there who did not bring in their guns today are obviously a problem, but I have a message for them, too. We offer services for them to turn their lives around and hopefully they’ll take advantage of those opportunities; if not, there will be a price to pay.
“We know who they are. We know where they live. We know what they do; so to those individuals either come on board, turn your lives around or we’ll use everything we have at our disposal to come after you.”
Asked about the latest police dashcam video released, Johnson said, “The arrest was good. We have two individuals who committed an armed robbery; so they were violent offenders but the tactics used were a little concerning.” Johnson said those situations call for more training, more mentoring “to put them back on the right track.”
Johnson said of his police officers, “If they are 100 percent right, they don’t need my assistance when they make honest mistakes, but potential misconduct I simply cannot tolerate.”
Pfleger said nearly 400 guns were turned in during the event.
“With me, it’s not about the numbers,” said Pfleger. “It’s about getting one gun off the street…out of the house that could be used to hurt or kill somebody.
“At Saint Sabina, you can turn a gun in any time, any day, no questions asked and we are going to continue that,” he said. “There are no gifts” involved.
“We’ve got to give people the opportunity to get guns off the street and out of the house, and we’ve got to change the mentality of people thinking they need guns to protect themselves,” he said. “Every statistic tells you that is not true.” Pfleger said having a gun in your home makes it easier for a person to commit suicide or hurt a family member.
“We’ve got to deal with the gun mentality first and we’ve also got to deal with getting them out of the house.”
Referring to the daily shooting count, Pfleger said, “ With 1,030 shootings as of this morning since January 1st, we ought to wake up and admit we’ve got a gun problem. Guns are not the way to handle our problems. We have mouths, minds, and worse come to worse; we’ve got fists. We don’t need guns.”