(Article changed on June 7, 2013 at 18:19)
Every year at this time, thousands of walkers and runners in the Chicago area assemble for the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate, honoring the legacy of the former Northwestern University Men's Basketball Coach, murdered in 1999.
Byrdsong was shot and killed while walking with two of his three children at his residence by white supremacist Benjamin Nathaniel Smith. Also shot and killed in the spree, which occurred two months after the Columbine massacre, was Won-Joon Yoon, a 26-year-old Korean doctoral student in computer science at Indiana University who was on his way to church. Smith targeted African-American, Jewish and Asian people in his spree and also wounded nine Orthodox Jews and an African-American minister. After his three-day, two-state shooting rampage, Smith killed himself as police approached.
According to Illinois police, the state issued Smith a gun owner's ID card two weeks before the shootings because a background check did not reveal an order of protection filed by an ex girlfriend. Let's enforce existing laws! The problem was confusion over middle initial problems, explained officials.
The order of protection did appear during a background check at a gun dealer that Smith went to, so instead Smith obtained his weapons from Donald R. Fiessinger, of Pekin, Illinois, accused of funneling "dozens of guns" into the illegal market by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials.
"This unfortunately hits home the point that we have to start regulating the secondary market as well," including gun shows, unlicensed gun dealers and sales over the Internet, said Lisa Morel Las, who was director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence at the time. It is a refrain the families of the Smith's 12 victims--and thousands of others--have heard in the ensuing 14 years.
When will we stop the gun bullies? by Martha Rosenberg
Six years later, another suspect in a high profile Chicago gun murder case also killed himself when police closed in. In a suicide note, Bart A. Ross, an electrician from Poland, confessed to killing the husband and mother of federal Judge Joan Lefkow after breaking into their residence. Ross, despite issuing a series of gun threats to his enemies in the medical and legal professions, passed a background check and bought at least one of his weapons legally in the Chicago suburb of Bensenville, said police. Suburban Chicago gun shops, like Chuck's, linked to 1,300 crime guns since 2008, are blamed for many of the criminal guns flooding the Chicago market.
Finally, Chicago just commemorated 25 years since another legal gun owner issued death threats, killed people and then killed herself. Laurie Dann was investigated by authorities in three states for repeated threats to kill people and even stabbed her ex husband with an ice pick. Yet Dann had no trouble purchasing Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum, telling the salesman that she needed it for self-defense. Thank you, NRA. Let's enforce existing laws.
The 30-year-old former babysitter shot six students at an elementary school in an affluent Chicago suburb, one of whom died, and another man. The police knew she was armed and "unsuccessfully tried to persuade Dann and her family that she should give up the gun," according to news reports.
Dann mailed arsenic laced snacks to former acquaintances and her psychiatrist and started fires at a Winnetka home and a different school from the one she shot up. "Laws Failing To Keep Guns Out Of Hands Of Disturbed," and, "Suspect Had History Of Bizarre Acts," wrote the Chicago Tribune . Who has heard that before?
Twenty-five years after Dann's rampage and eight years after Ross', violent criminals still sail through background checks, including those who threaten to kill . Fourteen years after Byrdsong's murder, illegal gun dealers still flourish thanks to laws the NRA has pushed through to protect them, largely behind the public's back.
Clearly "voter power" will not pry lawmakers out of the NRA's cold dead hands but "consumer power" can and will. Ninety percent of the nation wants universal background checks and the fight is moving out of the legislature and into the marketplace.