The Illinois Campaign For Political Reform Leads Discussion on Gun Violence

6/21/2017, noon | Updated on 6/21/2017, noon

The Illinois Campaign For Political Reform Leads Discussion on Gun Violence

By Christopher Shuttlesworth

The Illinois Campaign For Political Reform, which is a nonpartisan

public interest group that conducts research and advocates reforms to promote public participation in government, held a press conference recently entitled ‘Chicago’s Big Challenge: Neighborhood Safety,’ at the Standard Club, located on 320 S. Plymouth Court. The conference included speakers such as Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Father Michael Pfleger who discussed the e‹ects of youth being exposed to gun violence and how Chicago leaders can help guide troubled youths in the right direction.

Johnson said a lot of the violence that occurs in Chicago happens between people who know one another and who are trying to settle personal disagreements. “A lot of these shootings occur between people who know one another and guns are used to settle a lot of personal, petty disputes,” he said. “So, it tells us that we need to do a better job in giving these kids in these neighborhoods better resources like education, mental health

centers, job training and economic support.”

Because the disputes that lead to gun violence arise out of minor disputes, that shows young people involved in these incidences are desperate for role-models, he said.

“Parenting and mentorship is [imperative],” Johnson said. “I talk to a lot of these kids and surprisingly enough, they will admit to the Police Superintendent that they have engaged in acts of violence with hand guns like robberies and shooting people. The ones that turn themselves around all said what made them turn around was someone touching them on the shoulder and giving them hope to be better.”

He said as a cop who has chased gang members for 29 years, the only way this change can take place is by creating a culture of accountability within imp“I’ve seen a lot of things that you shouldn’t see in a lifetime,” Johnson said. “So, it’s not an option to give up on these kids. If we just show them a different path, then a lot of times they will just take it.” Arne Duncan, who is the managing partner of Emmerse Collective, said when he’s asked youth on the South and West sides of Chicago if they personally know one or two people who have been shot, they all raise their hands.

Duncan said it is so violent, so tough and so scary out in some communities that many of the young men who are a part of this world are looking to get out.

“Very few guys are making money on the street anymore,” Duncan said. “There is this myth that drug dealers are getting rich. The truth is guys aren’t making much money”Emmerse Collective seeks to help young men increase their job skills, provides emotional and academic support as well as helps troubled youths improve their lives.

“It’s hard work,” Duncan said. “We have a good days and bad days. But none of our guys have been shot and none of them are still shooting.”

Duncan added, there are only about 2,000 individuals participating in gun-related activity in Chicago, not 20,000 people. Where there is a crisis, there is also an opportunity, he said.

“Think about if we went to the 2,000 guys most likely to shoot or be shot and o‹er them a job...and offer them a chance to get the traumacare, substance care and academic support they need, every guy won’t take us up [on it], but I guarantee you that the vast majority [of them] will.”