CN February 21, 2013

“A firearm, if you understand how it works, is not a defensive weapon,” asserts Ethan Michaeli on this week’s program. “And this whole concept that you can use a firearm to defend yourself in your home, on a bus or anywhere else, is a marketing technique, It is not reality. It is not how firearms actually function.”

Michaeli (We the People Media and Resident’s Journal) was reacting to the current debate in Springfield about whether or not public transit should be excluded when Illinois passes Concealed Carry legislation. It reminds him, he says, of his training in an NRA firearms course, taught by an NRA instructor.

“And I remember distinctly  fom those times that the NRA instructor and the NRA handbook both said that there are certain circumstances in which firearms, which are an offensive weapon, are not appropriate. Settings with large groups of people, such as theaters, public transit, airports, schools, churches – these are all places that the NRA used to instruct people are not good places to have firearms.”

But today’s NRA is not the one he remembers. It was once a true membership organization, he says, and those members set the organization’s policies. “Today, the balance in terms of dollars has shifted very decisively to the 80 to 90 percent range from firearms manufacturers,” he says. “What they are doing is selling firearms.”

Panelist Alden Loury (BGA) says the legislators framing concealed carry legislation know that many people want that right, at all times.  “People feel empowered with a weapon,” he says. “I think if you ask a lot of people, if you’re scared, what may make you feel more comfortable, well a cop standing on the corner’s gonna make me feel more comfortable, and if I’ve got a gun on me, that’s gonna make me  more comfortable, too.”

After some conversation about the newest Jesse Jackson, Jr. revelations detailing extravagant spending, we turned our attention to next Tuesday’s election to replace him.

Could Debbie Halvorson, with her gun-rights agenda, run strong in the more conservative rural regions of the District? Michaeli says no.

“If you look at the demographics of the district, it still leans heavily Democratic, it’s a largely African-American district, and Debbie Halvorson over and over again has demonstrated that she’s not a top-ranked candidate,” he says. “This connection with the NRA is badly timed.”

Alden Loury’s take: “I still think to some degree it’s up in the air, but Toi Hutchinson’s dropping out of the race, I thought, was huge. So I think the path is somewhat clear for Robin Kelly to win this thing.”

Later in the program we turn our attention to Mayor Emanuel’s announced proposal to seek fifty million dollars in new donations from business for new youth-oriented programming. The proposal received mixed reviews from our panel.

“Fifty million is not a small amount of money,” says Michaeli. But “It depends where the money is being spent. If they’re distinct programs that are just targeted to low income neighborhoods I don’t think that’s gonna be as effective as if you just build up the infrastructure of the park districts, the schools, the neighborhood community organizations.”

He advocates pumping more funding into existing, proven infrastructure. “There’s been a sucking of resources out of the south and west sides… I’ve worked on the south side for more than twenty years at this point. I have watched it happen. Even things like public housing, which certainly were not great representations of taxpayer investments in these communities, but it was something. And even those things have been taken away.”

“You can go down south State Street now, where the Robert Taylor ( Homes ) used to be. You see mostly vacant, empty space. The people are gone. The business space is gone. Which is why the schools are closing. And all of this is continuing to be done in a way that tells a lot of young people, we don’t care. You’re surplus. We don’t care.”

And Loury, reacting to the fifty-million-dollar proposal, offered this recollection:

“When I heard of this it reminded me immediately of 1995 and Chicago winning the Empowerment Zone designations, 100 million dollars and that was supposed to help remedy the unemployment. Because it was supposed to create jobs… Well the money came to Chicago and the city immediately ( after it had had a very open process to win the designation, it involved a lot of people from the community ), when the money came to Chicago, Chicago took hold of the money – set up its own system for how that money would be distributed, and by-and-large what it became, was just a way to give money to a lot of  favored organizations. I mean the Empowerment Zone coordinating council was a lotta non-profits doing a lotta really good work. But for the most part those 19 people awarded their organizations in the first round of funding. And from there it went on. And 18 years later are jobs – is the situation really any better?”



About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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