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Chicago Energized By National Gun Control Reform Movement


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. And we begin this hour with voices from this country on one of the many big issues in the headlines. The sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives this week by Democrats trying to force a vote on gun control has energized advocates for greater restrictions on firearms. Opponents called the sit-in just a stunt. We'll hear from Coloradans in just a moment. But first to NPR's David Schaper in Chicago, a city that's struggled with a sharp increase in gun violence in recent years.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: The news coverage of gun violence in Chicago is like a constant drum beat, shootings every day. And the weekend totals, as in this ABC 7 report, are both staggering and sobering.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Twelve people killed by gunfire over this past weekend. At least 50 other people were wounded.

SCHAPER: Twenty-three-year-old data analyst Helen Lyons says Chicago is a prime example of why tougher federal gun laws are needed.

HELEN LYONS: There are definitely way too many guns in Chicago. And there is no excuse for it to be so easy for organized crime in Chicago to have such access to guns.

SCHAPER: While Chicago has fairly strict gun laws, it's easier for city residents to buy guns in nearby suburbs and then easier still in neighboring Indiana. So the sit-in this week by Democrats on the House floor resonates with Lyons.

LYONS: I mean, I think it's definitely necessary because not a lot of gun control reform has happened. So I think it's definitely about time that some more extreme action took place.

LILLIAN FREEMAN: The sit-in was a matter of frustration.

SCHAPER: And understand that?

FREEMAN: Hell, yeah. And you should too.

SCHAPER: Seventy-four-year-old Lillian Freeman lives on Chicago's South Side in an area where shootings are on the rise.

FREEMAN: Believe me. I don't think it was a stunt. I think it was a matter of just saying enough is enough. I'm not saying take away guns. I got a gun legally. And I plan to keep one.

SCHAPER: It's a gun that this feisty grandmother and great-grandmother says she keeps for protection. But...

FREEMAN: Common sense tells you nobody needs a assault rifle - nobody.

SCHAPER: For those wanting stricter gun laws, the sit-in was long overdue. To the allegation it was a publicity stunt, 62-year-old attorney Howard London says...

HOWARD LONDON: Every strategy is a publicity stunt. And anything that calls publicity to a problem is a good thing if it's done in a peaceful and effective way. And I think that's exactly what they did.

SCHAPER: Twenty-three-year-old Daniel Neal says he doesn't see the need for new restrictions on guns. But he says the sit-in didn't bother him.

DANIEL NEAL: I think it's a good idea in the way that it starts a conversation.

SCHAPER: A conversation that Neal says, in the wake of Orlando, needs to be had. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.