Fed up with daily shootings and killings of people, mostly on the South and West sides of Chicago, Representative LaShawn Ford (D-8th) scheduled a virtual meeting on July 28, designed to find answers to the flooding of illegal guns on Chicago’s streets, most allegedly coming from Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale, IL.
Ford, chairman of the Illinois Public Safety and Violence Prevention Task Force, along with co-chair, Representative Frances Ann Hurley (D-35th) are the hosts.
During an exclusive interview with the Chicago Crusader, Ford shared details about the virtual meeting, which would take place after the Crusader’s press time.
Chris Paterson, assistant secretary of the Illinois Office of Firearm Violence Prevention, announced his office has grants available for not-for-profit organizations seeking funds to help curb violence.
Community-based organizations can apply for the Reimagine Public Safety Act grants designed to “implement evidence-based solutions to interrupt and prevent firearm violence.”
The link for this office and the agencies/programs that are funded can be found at: https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=139077.
Ford is concerned that the gun violence occurring on the South and West sides of Chicago won’t get as much attention as the mass murders in Highland Park where seven people were killed and dozens wounded, admittedly by 21-year-old Robert Crimo who was later arrested.
“We get a lot of calls about the difference in the treatment between the victims of violence in Highland Park and Chicago,” Ford told the Chicago Crusader.
“Chicago is now ready to demand more support for the communities. People now recognize there is another way to handle these mass killers.”
Explaining, Ford said he saw the media attention that Highland Park received after the mass murders as “an opportunity for all of us to unite as communities. While they are gathering all those new resources for Highland Park, it is an opportune time to have this model brought to Chicago.”
Ford’s thoughts mirrored those of Father Michael Pfleger who on Tuesday morning, July 26, posted on his Facebook page: “According to HJ.Com, 8 killed, 62 wounded this weekend.” He added, “In Chicago, we will see if it gets as much attention and response as Highland Park.”
Responding to Pfleger’s post was Christina Bird Douglas who said, “I hear you, Fr. Pfleger. I live in Highland Park. Four of my close friends were shot that day and a person I know died. The individual and community level trauma here is palpable.
“My heart goes out to the neighborhoods where this devastation happens every weekend,” said Douglas. “This is a club that no one should belong to. Thanks for doing your peace walks and fighting for good. Praying for peace.”
Last Friday, July 22, several whites joined Father Pfleger’s weekly peace march praying for an end to the gun violence in the Auburn Gresham community.
Ford said the manner in which law enforcement and elected officials handled the Highland Park mass murders could be a model. Saying the Black community also stands up for their communities, Ford stated, “It happens so much in our community. It seems like we get ignored because it is just normal. I think that is what people are saying, and it can’t be normal.”
The daily murders, Ford said, “are unnecessary and preventable, and we are serious about preventing them. We have to get to the root of these shootings.”
Ford said they will also offer solutions and reasons why these shootings and murders are occurring. Ford pointed to the prisons as part of the problem.
“These prison systems are not helping people who are locked up. We must make sure that they don’t come out worse than they went in. That is why our streets are so violent, because we have people who are locked up coming out worse than they went in and they are not employable. They can’t get jobs.
“If we can work with the Department of Corrections and make sure those individuals are employable, have strong mentoring when they come out, they can become super role models for these new young people who are trying to become mentors by a life of crime,” Ford said.
Reminded that the Illinois prison system is suffering from infrastructure problems like at the Menard Prison where there is mold on the walls, water leakage, and no electricity at the 144-year-old prison, Ford said, “That doesn’t help.
“I think Chicago has to start advocating for improved prison systems because most of the prisoners come from Chicago, and they come home, have children and their children are also living a life of crime,” Ford said. “We need to start with those in prisons and jails because they are the red flag people.”
Scheduled to join Ford in the virtual meeting are members from the Braden Center “because they have evidence that guns were being purchased outside of the state, but more than half of the guns are purchased right here in Illinois…Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale.”
Reminded that gun shops have a right to sell guns, Ford said, “We’re going to find out if there is anything going on with straw purchases and if so, we can shut them down.” He wants to know if the shop is following state rules.
Ford said city officials must address the root of the problem of gun violence because “hopeless people are dangerous.”