During a confrontational press conference at Chicago Temple First United Methodist Church in downtown Chicago, a recently formed coalition that is against any form of a concealed carry law in Illinois was challenged by those in favor of such a law. In his opening statement, Lee Goodman, an organizer for the Stop Concealed Carry Coalition, began by declaring that “the majority of people in Illinois want to maintain the present law that does not allow people to carry concealed weapons.”
Goodman’s statement immediately raised eyebrows in the crowd that included professional journalists and those opposed to the coalition. Goodman said an online petition, approved by 6,700 people within the last week, is proof of the coalition’s position and he blamed the gun lobby for pressuring Illinois lawmakers into considering a concealed carry law.
Goodman’s claims were challenged by reporters that questioned the veracity of the online petition and the small sampling of people who allegedly agreed. Goodman then retracted his statement and said it was not a majority of Illinois’ 13 million people, but if you looked at a sample of surveys or polls taken, it would support his statement.
When asked to provide a copy of the surveys and polls he was citing, Goodman could not produce one. When more tough questioned followed statements being made by other speakers, and after two reporters were accused of pushing the concealed carry agenda, Goodman without warning, abruptly ended the press conference.
When Newsinblack brought up the fact during the question and answer session that more than 100,000 voters in 10 Illinois counties voted in favor of a non-binding concealed carry referendum during the election on Nov. 6, Cook County Commissioner Larry Sufferin (D-13th) dismissed the results as not being a true representation of the entire state.
“I happen to be a commissioner in a county of five and three quarter million people. A 100,000 people in small counties in southern Illinois are not going to control the destiny of the majority of the people who live in this part of the state,” Sufferin said. “Our urban areas do not want concealed carry.”
However the 10 counties were not just from the southern part of the state as Sufferin stated, it included counties in the western and northwestern portions of Illinois. When asked a follow-up question on why not put the concealed carry issue on a referendum in Cook County as the other 10 counties had done, Sufferin said a referendum two years ago on the ballot showed that 90 percent of Cook County voters wanted tighter gun control laws.
Not so said Valinda Rowe, a spokesperson for IllinoisCarry.com, who said the referendum Sufferin is referring to was about assault weapons and did not address concealed carry. Rowe added times and people’s position on the issue has changed in two years. Rowe and others said the press conference on Monday was further proof that those who are trying to stop progress are out of touch with today’s voters and have not paid attention to the 49 other states that have some form of a concealed carry law. Rowe said a common trick used by organizations like Stop Concealed Carry is to poll areas that favor their cause.
“A few years ago a group in Cook County came out with a survey they had done which they claimed people were against concealed carry in the state. It turns out they had done a phone survey in a few select districts, not statewide, in which they pretty much knew what kind of results they were going to get,” Rowe said. “These are the tactics being used.”
Although the coalition claimed it represented all facets of the area, several reporters observed there were no African Americans from the South or West Sides of Chicago, or any Blacks from the western or southern suburbs as a part of the coalition. Those areas are the hotbed of the African American population in the metro area.
Of the 14 people present representing the coalition, only one was African American, Rev. Dr. Norris E. Jackson Jr. the leader of a church in north suburban Glencoe, which according to the 2010 U.S. Census has a Black population of less than three percent and is 94 percent white. Father Michael Pfleger, a white pastor from St. Sabina Catholic Church on the South Side whose parishioners are mostly African American, could only speak for his membership but believes he can speak for most of the community.
Charles Butler, an African American conservative talk show host, had an issue with the lack of representation and people claiming to speak on behalf of the diverse Black community. He said the Black community has always been underrepresented on this issue even though it is besieged by gun violence. Butler believes as more people are educated on the proper use of guns and see how gun control measures have left the community defenseless, more are in favor of concealed carry than Black politicians and anti-gun organizations want to admit.
“This law has always hurt the Black community because it has allowed the gang members and people who are outlaws to prey on law-abiding citizens,” Butler said. “We know that when it gets dark our elderly citizens retreat to their homes and kids do not come out to play even in the daytime. Today we have Black terrorists, not the Klu Klux Klan.”
Goodman, Pfleger, Sufferin and Chicago Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd Ward) made more statements that were not true later, saying concealed carry would mean more guns in places like college universities and churches. The bill, HB 148, specifically bans guns in those places.
The measure failed by only a few votes earlier this year, but with lawmakers back in Springfield this week for the veto session, the bill may come up again for a vote.
After being corrected on what the bill entailed, Sufferin attempted to correct the oversight and defend the coalition’s position by saying once a concealed carry law is passed, gun rights activists would challenge to have that part of the law changed as well.
Ironically, less than an hour after the press conference, a man was murdered and another wounded after a shooting inside a South Side church during a funeral. The scene was three miles away from Pfleger’s parish. Even as more Black residents say they would vote in favor of concealed carry and an African American plaintiff, Otis McDonald, successfully struck down Chicago’s ban on guns in the U.S. Supreme Court last year, Pfleger said the community must stand against the gun culture.
“We have to address the issue in America with our love affair with guns,” Pfleger said. “With those who are trying to make guns a part of America’s wardrobe and others who work very hard to promote fear in people making them think that a gun is the only way to protect you so now we have this proliferation of guns in America.”
Munoz said Monday morning headlines record the gun-related crimes in Chicago over the weekend. He said Illinois should be proud to prohibit guns in public places and be the last state taking a position on the controversial issue.
“I can’t fathom the idea of walking into a shopping mall and just thinking that in a purse or under a coat there might be a weapon,” Munoz said.