by Dave Workman
A Chicago, IL, priest, whose 17-year-old adopted son was gunned down in 1998 by an unknown killer, is spearheading a gun turn-in program that may be politically correct, but might also be in violation of Illinois state law, according to gun rights activist John Birch, president of Concealed Carry Inc.
Incredibly, in an interview with Gun Week, the Rev. Michael Pfleger seemed more interested in getting firearms turned in than he was in bringing his sons killer to justice.
Pfleger said that guns are turned in anonymously, and then turned over to police.
Asked whether this might allow a criminalincluding the person who shot his adopted sonto get rid of a crime gun and go free, Pfleger stated, To me the much bigger problem is the anonymously sold guns on the streets that goes on every day.
Further pressed about the murder of his son, Pfleger said of the anonymous killer, I would be very glad if he stopped using the gun.
Pfleger has taken in some 60 firearms by his own estimate since the Clergy for Safer Streets initiated the program earlier this year. The group involves some 50 religious leaders in the city, according to The Chicago Tribune, with gun drop-offs accepted at 11 churches, synagogues and mosques throughout the city. Pflegers St. Sabina Catholic Church is on the citys South Side.
Pfleger acknowledged to Gun Week that, I am very, very anti-gun. He criticized sales at gun shows, which he claims he has attended, and he has implored his congregation to turn in their firearms. The priest insisted his effort is the right thing to do.
But Birch has another perspective, and he argues that if large numbers of firearms were being turned in to someone other than an anti-gun community leader, he might be jailed.
This guy is dealing in guns, Birch insisted. This is definitely illegal possession of guns if there ever was one.
He contacted the Chicago Police Departments Chicago Anti-Gun Enforcement (CAGE) unit and complained about the program. Birch said he told a CAGE officer, Without a FOID (Firearms Owner Identification) card, taking in guns is flat wrong.
Birch alleged that the individual with whom he spoke dismissed his complaint out of hand, telling Birch that the intent is good.
When Gun Week contacted the CAGE unit, an individual who identified himself by one name, and then refused to identify himself further, refused to discuss the gun turn-in project further. When Gun Week asked to speak to his supervisor, his curt response was I am the supervisor. He then terminated the conversation by hanging up the telephone.
David Bayless, director of the departments public information office, assured Gun Week that a police officer is present when the guns are turned in, so there is nothing illegal about the program. He said the guns are traced by the CAGE unit. Bayless confirmed that the turn-ins are anonymous.
While both Pfleger and Bayless said the goal of the program is to get illegal firearms off the streets of Chicago, the priest acknowledged that criminals really arent about to turn in their guns.
Pfleger said he once asked students in his school if any of them could get a gun if they wanted to, and Ninety percent of the students said they could get a gun in 24 hours.
Ive found that people who have a gun and use it in crime dont give it up, he admitted. People who basically have crime guns are people who usually hold onto their guns.
On the other hand, he has urged St. Sabina parishioners to disarm.
I challenged all my church members (that) if youre not a law enforcement officer you should not have a gun in your house, Pfleger said.
Bayless said so far this year, Chicago police have confiscated 4,273 illegal firearms, which he classified as crime guns and handguns possessed illegally.
Potential crime guns off the street is a good thing, he said. Bayless said the clergy program is a venue for people who do not want to have a firearm to get rid of it.
Birch, in an e-mail to other gun rights activists in Illinois, said the program screams of injustice and hypocrisy. He said that under the FOID Act, Pfleger is required to have a FOID card to possess a firearm and a record of each transaction has to be kept for 10 years.
Birch may have a point. Last year, following the Aug. 27 shooting at Chicagos Windy City Core Supply in which six people were gunned down by a man named Salvador Tapia, who had a long criminal history. Tapia used a Walther PP .380-caliber semi-auto pistol in that crime, which had previously been owned by two now-deceased Chicago police officers.
One of the two cops obtained that gun from its only legal owner, a man identified as Milton R. Beuck, now homeless. Beuck had owned the gun legally since 1967 and had registered it in 1983.
When the guns history was revealed last year, Beuck was arrested and charged with failure to keep a record of the guns sale for 10 years. Bayless told Gun Week the investigation into how that gun went from the cops to Tapia has not been active.