During an April 18 press conference at UCAN, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a case for tougher laws governing gun dealers in Chicago and focused on how gun violence and options for the city’s youth are issues that matter for everyone. Emanuel noted that relying on weak federal laws is not enough, and that there are simple and non-threatening tactics to alleviate opportunities for guns to fall into the wrong hands.
Emanuel, along with Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele and 11th District Police Commander Kevin Johnson, first participated in an open dialogue with a group of young men from UCAN’s Violence Intervention and Prevention programming to learn what it is like to live in North Lawndale and how they think the government can do a better job in protecting and providing opportunities for youth.
After introductions and stories about their goals and aspirations, Mayor Emanuel asked at what moment in their lives did the youth experience a turning point to seek help and get away from the violence.
Jarvis stated, “It started to seem like my mom was crying all day. It was hard to watch her like that and I decided then to be a support for my family and a better role model for my little sister.”
Deontae said, “I was hanging with the wrong friends and had some close calls with getting shot.”
Shyjon explained, “It all changed when I got my mentor from UCAN. He got me the support I need.”
Commander Johnson noted he was proud of the young men and that he takes it personally when violence persists in their neighborhoods.
Sequan, a youth who has struggled with homelessness and neglect, concluded: “Although you can only help the young men who want to be helped, I feel like there are lots of us who need it. I feel like I’m a leader and want to take advantage of this opportunity and start by showing my peers that it is ok to ask for help.”
Mayor Emanuel stressed that a multifaceted approach is essential for progress, including the police, job creation, mentorship and economic growth: “What UCAN does is make sure that the kids of North Lawndale and the surrounding communities know that the city they hear described … a world class city with world class potential … involves their potential themselves,” he remarked. “This legislation is a component of the strategy and a philosophy of making sure every child counts in the city of Chicago.”
Added Tom Vanden Berk, UCAN CEO emeritus and founder of the political action committee GPAC, “UCAN’s vision is ‘youth who have suffered trauma can become our future leaders.’ Unfortunately here in North Lawndale, our youth continue to suffer a great deal of trauma due to use of illegal guns. And we want it stopped. That is why we are here today. We welcome Mayor Emanuel’s support of Senate Bill 1657 and House bill 2541. This gun dealer licensing bill attacks in a head-on, but thoughtful way, the issue of illegal guns that are prevalent in Chicago.”
He added, “The fact of the matter is 40% of the guns used in crimes between 2009 in 2014 have come from Illinois gun dealers. This important bill gives authority to the Illinois State Police to hold these gun dealers accountable. There is a significant amount of illegal activity going on outside of this community that feeds the death and pain we suffer here.”
Join the discussion, stand up for youth who’ve suffered trauma, and help make their voices heard. Find and call your representatives to be part of the change today: http://www.bipac.net/lookup.asp?g=illinois.