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Chicagoans Demonstrate Against NRA & Call For Stricter Gun Laws

By aaroncynic in News on Oct 10, 2017 5:00PM

Demonstrators rally against the National Rifle Association and call for tougher gun laws in Federal Plaza in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Photo by Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist.

Several hundred people gathered in Federal Plaza Monday for what was part vigil for the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, and part rally for stricter gun control laws and against the National Rifle Association.

“I think to myself, when will it be my face, your face, or my children’s faces that will be next scrolling past on the news,” said Brenna O’Brien, of the group Moms Demand Action, one of about a dozen groups who participated in the event. “Americans shouldn’t have to worry about being shot at concerts, movie theaters, churches, nightclubs, airports, colleges, elementary schools, and their own homes.”

On Oct. 1, 64 year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at a music festival along the Las Vegas strip from a nearby hotel, killing at least 58 and inuring 489. Nearly two dozen firearms were found in his suite, many of which were modified semi-automatic weapons, along with numerous high capacity magazines. Last week, information first revealed by TMZ showed that Paddock had booked rooms at the Blackstone Hotel during Lollapalooza, and specifically asked for rooms with a view of the festival.

The rally was attended by several elected officials, including Reps Jan Schakowsky and Mike Quigley, State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss, and Chicago Alderman and gubernatorial candidate Ameya Pawar.

“We can’t let the slaughter continue,” Quigley told the crowd. “Does life mean that little to you?” he asked after describing his experience at an Indiana gun show where an assault weapon was raffled off. “To the NRA I ask, does life mean that little to you? To my friends who won’t act, sadly my Republican friends in Congress, does life mean that little to you?”

Illinois House Rep. Jan Schakowsky speaks at a rally against the National Rifle Association in Federal Plaza. Photo by Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist.

The Trump administration, which has close ties to the NRA, has frequently made Chicago a political talking point when it comes to gun violence. In the wake of the massacre in Las Vegas, it attempted to make the argument that the City’s alleged “tougher” gun laws, which are generally on par with other major United States cities, wouldn’t help stop mass shootings.

“In the city of Chicago, we know in the last 4 weeks 58 people have been killed,” said Schakowsky. “It is not just the mass is the day to day violence that is wrought by the guns that we have. 500 people have died in Chicago alone. Yet what do we do in Washington? Our tradition is a moment of silence. That silence is deafening, because we do nothing after that moment.”

Some 60 percent of guns recovered in Chicago in connection with an arrest between 2009 and 2013 came from out of state, a fact that Pawar and Biss, who both support the Gun Dealer Licensing Act, mentioned.

“The National Rifle Association does not represent gun owners, they represent gun manufacturers,” said Pawar. “The gun manufacturers don’t care whether guns are purchased legally or illegally, just so long as there are more guns on the streets.”

Chicago Alderman and gubernatorial candidate Ameya Pawar speaks at a rally against the National Rifle Association and gun violence in Federal Plaza. Photo by Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist.

If signed, the bill would require background checks for employees of gun dealers, require surveillance outside gun stores, and mandate training for employees to identify straw purchasers.

“This is not anti gun owner, this is about holding gun dealers accountable,” said Mark Walsh of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. “There’s too many guns ending up in an illegal market, and very few people sitting in their garages making guns...if you think about what we regulate in the state of Illinois - my tattoos, earings, painted toenails, are all regulated. Yet we allow gun dealers to just have a federal license.”