(Article changed on February 22, 2013 at 19:24)
Carrying photos of lost loved ones and signs reading "We Deserve a Vote," a strong crowd turned out in the freezing Chicago rain in support of universal background checks on Friday.
Organized by10 Illinois and Chicago based anti-gun violence groups, the rally comes weeks after the Obamas attended services for slain Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago and as Illinois' ban against concealed weapons has been overturned.
The stakes to curtail gun violence cannot be higher said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle because legislation to ban assault weapons is in the Illinois legislature "right now." Preckwinkle, who served as a Chicago alderman for 19 years, was able to pass a $25 county tax on firearms last year but noted the loopholes in Illinois which perpetuate gun violence.
Firearms Owner's Identification (FOID) Cards are issued in Illinois, for example, for ten years and there is "no checking" if the owner has been charged with crimes since issuance, said Preckwinkle. And, "designated streetpersons" who supply weapons through straw purchase operations simply say they "lost" their weapon or "it was stolen" when they are identified or apprehended.
"We have a Sandy Hook every month," proclaimed Tio Hardiman from Ceasefire IL which focuses on street violence and works with 1,100 high risk individuals. While a "full court press" is necessary, said Hardiman, the recent attention to gun violence in Chicago after the shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton, who had appeared at President Obama's inauguration, has produced a rare drop in shootings and gun deaths in February.