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Taking aim at saving lives

Submitted by Visitor on Sat, 07/21/2007 – 04:00.
Story by Jamie Morgan

Today is the Chicago Police Department CAPS program’s third annual Turn in a Gun Event.

CAPS and 23 churches around the city are prompting people to put down their guns and, as the slogan reads, “Don’t Kill A Dream, Save a Life.” The message has been plastered inside CTA buses and trains, posted in every alderman’s office and displayed at City Hall for weeks. Now, the community will wait and see who takes up the challenge.  Last year, more than 12,000 guns were turned in and destroyed.

Chicago’s overall crime rate continues to decrease year by year, as it has done for more than a decade.  But as of June of this year, the homicide rate was at the same mark as it was in June 2006 — 201 homicides.  And according to the Chicago Police Department, gun violence is responsible for 80 percent of homicides.

Mayor Daley and several Chicago aldermen showed their support for the event at Thursday’s city council meeting and honored weeping parents who lost their children to gun violence in recent years. They also thanked families for their dedication in reaching out to youths and families by marching in neighborhoods plagued by shootings, and speaking at schools around the city.

“You’re doing more than all the elected officials,”  Daley said to the parents at the meeting.  “You’re doing more than the aldermen. You’re remembering your child.”

But the meeting wasn’t just about what these few parents were doing. It also touched upon what the city and the rest of the community can and should do to take a proactive approach into sparing the lives of young children.

Many of the aldermen urged Chicagoans to use their voting power to put people in government who are in favor of gun control. They also told them to point fingers where they belong — with state and federal elected officials, since they are the ones who have the power to legislate gun control.

“Hopefully, we can get to a point in society where we don’t have guns so readily available,” said Alderman Isaac Carothers (29 Ward).  In some neighborhoods, he said, getting a gun is as easy as getting a bag of potato chips.

Alderman Ray Suarez (31st Ward) was also in favor of more strict legislation such as what Mayor Daley proposed to the Illinois General Assembly. He urged Illinois lawmakers to pass laws restricting handgun purchases to once a month and banning assault weapons, .50-caliber rifles and large-capacity ammunition clips.

Falling in line with more gun control was Alderman Anthony Beale (9th Ward), but he also suggested that kids in neighborhoods like East Garfield and Englewood, which have high poverty rates, need more jobs and summer programs so that they don’t resort to gangs, guns and drugs.

Pastor John Earl Jackson’s church, Revival Fellowship Church of God in Christ, is participating in the gun-return event for the first time. His church is in East Garfield, and he says shootings are frequent in his neighborhood. “It’s just so many,” he said.  “I can’t give you just one example.”

He agrees with many of the aldermen who said kids need more educational and uplifting programs, but added that, in his view, the parents are the ones who really need to take control.

“It seems most of the shootings are youth involved,” said Pastor Jackson. “The parents have got take control of their homes.”

“They have to teach them how important life is,” he added. “And how to react with your fellow man.”

He says it is important for his church to participate in the event and send out a message that “guns have to go.”

“People just don’t see too much hope,” said Jackson. “We’re just hoping to slow the pace of violence.”

People who turn in guns at any location will receive a prepaid $100 Mastercard.  BB guns, water guns and replica guns can be exchanged for a prepaid $10 Mastercard. All 23 churches will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and people can turn in guns, bullets and gun parts with no questions asked.

For more information and to find locations in your neighborhood call 311.

Justice & Crime Public South Side West Side
29th ward 31st ward 9th ward alderman isaac carothers alderman ray suarez anthony beale caps gun control mayor daley

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