DOWNTOWN — Gun-control advocates, including the father of Hadiya Pendleton, staged a protest Monday asking that Illinois maintain its ban on concealed weapons.
"Too many kids have too many guns," said Nate Pendleton, lending his voice to what was called the People's Filibuster for Safe Streets at the Thompson Center. "Guns, guns, guns. Now let's talk about results."
"Illinois has proudly stood as the lone state that does not allow concealed weapons," said Lee Goodman, organizer of the Stop Concealed Carry Coalition and the so-called filibuster. He asked the General Assembly not to cave in to calls for it to adopt some state concealed-carry law, and he urged Attorney General Lisa Madigan to appeal the ruling knocking down the state ban to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We are quite confident the Supreme Court will throw out the decision," Goodman added.
Garrett Evans, a Chicago survivor of the Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007, challenged Madigan to appeal the ruling, which would impose loose federal standards on concealed weapons if the state does not adopt its own measures by the end of June.
"What's more important? Your political career or saving the lives of many, many people?" Evans said, mentioning Madigan's possible gubernatorial ambitions and the need to appease gun advocates Downstate as causes for her delay.
"Don't worry about Downstate voters," Evans said. "Your votes are up here."
"We’re continuing our legal analysis of a possible petition to the U.S. Supreme Court," said Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer. "The decision is based on the legal merits of the case. There is absolutely no political consideration."
The protest was planned to go on until 5 p.m. at the Thompson Center, also known as the State of Illinois Building, where Madigan and Gov. Pat Quinn have their Chicago offices.
Pendleton, however, also expanded the debate. Saying he and his wife, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, had been "thrust" into the media spotlight by the shooting death of their daughter in January, he acknowledged, "I am an advocate, now, against gun violence," adding, "Now, the only thing we have to talk about is how to make things better.
"We know where these problem children are," Pendleton said. "We see them every day. The problem is, we don't say anything to them. We have to engage them. When you see a group of kids standing out in front of your home, engage them. Go outside. Talk to them. Get to know them. Let them know that, hey, there's a concerned parent on this block. I need to know who you are.
"Don't be afraid of them," he added. "Being afraid is one of the biggest issues that we deal with today. Be a man and stand up to these kids. They want discipline. They need discipline. They all ask for it. It's up to you to give it to them."
Pendleton said he was also throwing his efforts into Hadiya's Foundation, an agency being created to raise funds in her name to combat youth violence in three ways: through social-service efforts, education and economic development. "They say money is the root of all evil," Pendleton said. "Let's make money the root of something good happening."
Part of the day was spent reading a list of the victims of gun violence in mass shootings.
"The list goes on," Hyde Park activist Mary Stonor Saunders said. "But these are not numbers. They're human beings."
Many victims of gun violence shared their experiences, including Joy McCormack, whose son, Frankie Valencia, was a DePaul University student killed by gang-bangers at a party in 2009. "We want to reinstate the concealed-carry ban in Illinois," McCormack said. Her group Chicago's Citizens for Change planned to join lobbyists in Springfield on Thursday to argue in favor of the ban.
Joy Ehlenfeldt, daughter of the owners of the Brown's Fried Chicken in Palatine, who were killed with five employees in a 1993 robbery, also spoke out.
"At some point, we need to realize there is something drastically wrong with our society and our access to guns," Ehlenfeldt said. "The answer is not putting more guns on the street.
"As a community, we need to stand up for what we believe in and make our voices heard to our Legislature and make sure they are following the will of the people."
"We are a violent city," said the Rev. Carol Reese, violence-prevention coordinator for the Trauma Department at Stroger Hospital. "The cost is borne by all of us in multiple ways."
According to Reese, Stroger treated 846 gunshot victims last year, at an average of $52,000 an incident — a total cost of $44 million. She said the nation loses $400 billion a year on gunshot victims, and that the Chicago Crime Lab determined that a decade of gun violence from 1998 to 2008 cost the city $25 billion "to deal with the impact of gun violence."
Pendleton was asked at one point how his son, Nathaniel Jr., is doing. "I tell everyone he's a lot stronger than me or my wife," Pendleton said. "He's 10 years old, and a lot of times he's come and consoled both of us when he's seen us sad."