Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hundreds Pray and "Die-In" at Capitol to Stop Gun Violence


SPRINGFIELD – Today, 500 clergy, people of faith, and youth converged on the State Capitol to call on the Illinois General Assembly to enact common sense gun legislation to stop illegal gun trafficking and decrease gun deaths. At the end of the day, the group overflowed the Capitol Rotunda in a “die-in.” Community Renewal Society Activists, wearing the names of the more than 400 people killed by gun violence in Chicago last year, lay down on the floor of the Capitol. The activists hummed “Amazing Grace” as the names of the victims were read aloud by youth from the Chicago area.

“We are here to bring the voices of those who can no longer speak because of gun violence to the leaders of our state,” said Rev. Eddie Knox, pastor of Pullman Presbyterian Church on the South side of Chicago. “Gun violence is destroying our communities. We are here to act, with our prayers, our voices, and our bodies to call on the General Assembly to act to stop these deaths.”

The group was calling for Illinois to enact three new anti-gun trafficking requirements: creating a registration or a title for a gun, similar to the title for a car; mandating universal background checks for all gun purchases; and mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns. They argue that these pieces would do the most the stop the flow of illegal handguns, which are responsible for the majority of gun crimes and gun deaths each year.

Youth from across the state played a crucial part in the rally, offering testimony and reading the names of the gun victims. Young people are disproportionately victimized by gun violence. The average age of a person killed by a gun in Chicago last year was only 26.

“We live every day in fear for our lives,” said Chari Stevens, a high school student from Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland. “Every one of us has lost friends or family to this senseless gun violence. We need our elected officials to act to protect all our youth.”

The group spent the day asking members of the General Assembly to sign onto a letter declaring their support for these three pieces of regulations. The bill that the House has been debating for months currently has been amended to include gun registration and reporting of lost and stolen guns, but not universal background checks. It is not clear where these initiatives stand in the Senate. The activists were joined by members of the General Assembly.

“This is an issue that affects all of Illinois,” said Rev. Alan Taylor, pastor of Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Oak Park. “Every gun death affects us all, and so we are calling on all our state representatives to act. Every day we delay, we are letting another person die.”

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