On Saturday, June 6th, volunteers from Northwest Suburbs Organizing for Action (NWSOFA) traveled to Riverdale to join almost 200 people in protesting outside Chuck's Gun Shop. The protest was organized by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Volunteers from Operation PUSH, People for a Safer Society, and other Chicago-area groups joined the protest. A group called Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence came all the way from Indianapolis.
Nearly 20% of the crime guns recovered in Chicago between 2009 and 2013 were originally sold by just four local gun dealers. Shockingly, a single gun dealer – Chuck’s Gun Shop and Pistol Range – was the source of nearly one out of every 12 guns traced to crime in Chicago. Chuck’s is part of the roughly 5 percent of gun dealers around the country that supply about 90 percent of the guns linked to crime. From 2009 to 2013, 1,516 guns recovered in crime in Chicago were traced back to Chuck’s. Nationwide, 2,370 guns recovered in crime were traced back to Chuck’s from 1996 to 2000, the most of any gun dealer in the country. In contrast, more than 85 percent of gun dealers sell no guns used in crime.
Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign introduced Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Michael Pfleger of St.Sabina's Church. He led the group in peaceful protest just outside the front door of Chuck's Gun Shop.
The truly memorable speakers, however, were dozens of mothers, fathers, and children of people killed by gun violence. Their quiet, sincere testimonials brought our chants of "Purpose over Pain" as they turned their grief into action.
Several dozen counterprotestors stood on the property of the gun shop, waiving signs that had obviously been prepared by professionals and shouting insults. What struck me was the pettiness and lack of substance in what they and their signs said: "Chuck's Is Not a Bad Apple," "Guns Don't Kill People, Gangs Do," and the like. They had no argument why Chuck's shouldn't sign the code of conduct that most gun shops have, or why Chuck's should be allowed to continue selling guns to straw purchasers, advising customers how to evade the law, and enabling gun crime in Chicago and elsewhere.
I had several memorable conversations. One was with a woman whose 19-year old son was shot to death. Another was with an older black man who had been in the Marines. He said that after he returned from combat, he had no desire to own or use a gun.
Another of our volunteers said:
Guns have always made me fearful. Protesting outside of a well-known gun shop whose unethical business practices are in question terrified me, however, something inside of me pushed me to go. One activist wore a super hero cape, but the family members of the victims of gun violence were the true heroes of the day. As they shared their stories, embraced the photos of their deceased loved ones, held posters with the autopsy photos of their beloved deceased, and hugged a total stranger like me, they demonstrated what a toll this senseless violence has on the living, as well as the strength they have derived to make something positive occur out of their personal tragedy. I left the rally without fear, but with a new found courage. I was emotionally moved, inspired, and resolved to push on because this movement to make America a country that values life over guns and life over money is alive in all of the family members whose loved ones have lost their lives to senseless gun violence.
ABC-7 News covered the rally. I thought their story was fair, other than underestimating the number of protestors. Even Sean Hannity of Fox News interviewed Dan Gross and agreed with most of what Gross said.
The Brady Campaign did an excellent job of organizing and managing the protest. Several buses came from different areas, including St. Sabina's Parish and Evanston. The organizers had red t-shirts for all with the message "Stop Bad Apple Gun Dealers." The message was clear and consistent. The crowd was multi-racial and multi-ethnic. The organizers had volunteers walk, chant, and eventually sit symbolically on the sidewalk outside the gun shop. Despite high emotions on all side, there was no violence or even threat of violence. This was a model of how to organize an effective protest.
The fact that most gun dealers have signed a code of conduct tells us that common sense and public pressure are winning out over the selfish, irrational shouts of a few gun rights extremists. Every year, more people recognize the need for reasonable regulations. This rally encouraged me to "keep the faith" knowing that we are on the track to victory.