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Chicago Priest and Cardinal caught in Gun Control Crossfire

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Chicago, IL

It's been a month since 16-year-old Blair Holt, son of a Chicago Police gang investigator and a Chicago fire captain, was shot and killed riding the bus home from high school.

Like Bill Cosby' son, Michael Jordan's father, Serena and Venus Williams' sister and Chicago area Congressman Bobby Rush's son, family proved no hedge against gun violence for Holt.

But do the 21 Chicago students killed by guns since September--two from Blair Holt's school--mean Chicago's gun ban doesn't work as gun lovers contend?

(And since it doesn't work we should be allowed to buy 18 guns at once to protect ourselves? Including automatic weapons? And weapons from unlicensed dealers to avoiding background checks?)

Or does it mean that suburban gun shops are arming the city from its borders and stoking and profiteering off the violence? Aided and abetted by state laws like HR 4818, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005, which prevents disclosure of "any part of the contents of the firearms tracing system?" In effect, protecting the "rights" of straw purchasers and criminals?

Father Michael Pfleger, the outspoken pastor of Chicago's St. Sabina Church known for defacing tobacco and alcohol billboards in his church's neighborhood, believes the latter.

Two weeks after Holt's death, Pfleger and Rev. Jesse Jackson led 200 Chicagoans in a march to Chuck's Gun Shop in bordering Riverdale where police say more guns involved in crimes have been traced than any other gun shop--2,370 from 1996 to 2000--including the weapon that killed a police officer nine years ago.

Chuck's was ready for the visit with a semitrailer truck parked in front to block protesters' access and doors tightly shut and locked.

"We're going to snuff out legislators that are voting against our gun laws," Father Pfleger told the crowd of gun violence victims, community activists and reporters. "We will call them out by name, by district. We will expose you, legislators."

And Chuck's Gun Shop owner, John Riggio who is hiding his identity behind a trust, according to Pfleger?

"We're going to find you and snuff you out. Like a rat you're going to hide. But like a rat, we're going to catch you and pull you out."

Pfleger is not alone in his exasperation at suburban and downstate politicians in thrall to the gun lobby--and oblivious to the Chicago blood bath.

Days after the Virginia Tech shootings, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley introduced yet again legislation in Springfield to ban assault weapons and .50-caliber rifles; limit handgun purchases to one a month (there go your rights!) mandate licensing of gun dealers by the state police; and limit all gun sales to licensed dealers.

Federally, he's hoping for an assault weapons ban and closure of the "gun show loophole" that lets gun buyers elude background checks.

And this week, Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush introduces "Blair's Bill" on Capitol Hill--named after Chicago's Blair Holt--which would create a national registry of gun sales and ownership and require licensing of all individuals who own guns.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative pubic health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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