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Howard University > Alternative Spring Break 2013
ASB Students Lobby for Better Gun Control

By Victoria M. Walker
Howard University News Service

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (March 12, 2013) – Earlier this morning, bleary-eyed students Howard University students, loaded into cars and vans destined for Union Station in downtown Chicago. It was 5:12 a.m., and the students, part of Howard University’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) volunteers in Chicago, were headed for Springfield, the state capitol.

Howard University ASB volunteers huddle in the state capitol to go over plans to ensure that they cover as much ground as possible during their one day of lobbying.

Today was the day to lobby for bills advocating better gun control.

According to a report from the University of Chicago, a total of 510 people were murdered in Chicago during 2008. Eighty percent of these victims were killed by gunfire. Nearly half were between the ages of 10 and 25, and the vast majority were male.

The sleepy students quickly awoke during mini rally on the three-hour Amtrak train ride. They practiced their pitches.  They were excited to be part of the legislative process. The students were separated into eight groups, lead by members of Community Renewal Society, an organization that seeks to eliminate race and class barriers.

Up for debate was House Bill 3016, a bill that would allow non-violent felons the opportunity to seal their records so they can obtain jobs, education and adequate housing. According to a 2005 Loyola University study, former inmates who were employed30 days after leaving prison showed a 67 percent reduction in being incarcerated again.

There were red and blue Howard sweatshirts throughout the capitol building as ASB participants knocked on representatives’ doors to encourage them to support the bill and gun control legislation.

Joshua Harris, a senior, lobbied democratic State Sen. Don Harmon for stricter laws on illegal gun trafficking. Harris outlined the bill’s three points: titling guns for tracing, universal background checks for all recipients of firearms and requiring a gun owner to report a stolen gun. Harmon said he would look over the bill.

Brandon Patterson, a Howard sophomore and Chicago native, lobbied numerous elected officials throughout the capitol.

Patterson has seen the outcomes of gun violence in the city. He talked about the killing of Jonylah Watkins, a 6-month-old Chicago girl who was shot five times March 11, the day the students began working in the city this year. 

“Stuff like that has to stop,” Patterson said.  “That’s why I’m here. Our state legislature should implement stricter gun control so guns aren’t easily accessible.”

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