ISRA Member Colleen Lawson sat down and wrote this letter after one of her children, yet again, were faced with an attacker and a gun. Below is a video of her reading the letter, following that, the letter itself.
This has been reprinted here with her permission.
Could you please help me decide which of my kids lives to save? Here's the problem:
Last night yet another of my kids found himself on the goodbye end of a robber's gun as the robber slowly counted down "5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2..."
I know you politicians told us "if it saves one life, then keeping guns away from law-abiding citizens is the right thing to do!" but I'm having a little trouble figuring out which life is the one to be saved. I've had most of these kids for 20 years or more, and I'm rather fond of them all.
My kid last night? It was his third time facing armed robbers in Chicago, in Illinois. Can you tell me how many times is just right and how many times is too many?
The one last night was in a convenience store at the time. He and his friend had gone into the store to buy soda, and they hid as the robber stuck his gun in the face of the store clerk and began counting down.
Do you give classes in hiding? Wait, that can't be right, cause many kids get found anyway, and it's not always easy to stay quiet if your heart is thudding and you're afraid. Maybe you give classes in what kids should do if they find themselves around guns. No, that's not right. State Rep. Annazette Collins proposed that idea, to keep kids safe and deglamorize firearms, and she was roundly trounced for the idea.
Mr. Legislator, all my kids have been robbed at gunpoint on the streets of Chicago -- well, all the young ones, who still live in Chicago. Does that mean that it's better for my kids to live someplace else? Wait, that can't be right, because you keep telling us that Chicago is a good place to raise children.
Is it best to just stay home? That can't be right, cause the first time he was robbed at gunpoint he was on the steps of his own house.
Maybe being in a group is best. No, that can't be right, either. The last time, three of my kids had grouped together for safety as they walked home from a friend's house. But their attackers had grouped together, too. Three unarmed victims, three robbers with guns, just over three blocks from home in what was once one of the three safest areas of the city.
Mr. Legislator, I have tried to keep my family safe by living in an area where lots of policemen live. But it seems to be open season on cops, too,in Chicago. Even Thomas Wortham, a cop who was also the son of a cop, was shot in front of his parents home as his father watched.
Should I try one of the other "safe" areas? No, less than twenty-four hours ago, an acquaintance of mine was in a group of 4 and got robbed in Lincoln Park by ... a group of 4.
Maybe only going out in daylight is the answer? Or maybe in an area that's more retail than residential? Gosh, that can't be right: Two of my girls were attacked mid-afternoon as they waited for a bus right outside a major shopping mall.
Perhaps you say that everything's fine because none of my kids were shot or killed, and because last night's robber chose to be contented with the money and goods, and let the clerk and customers go. But it would have been hard to say that as I wiped the blood from the face of the one who'd had her head slammed into the concrete sidewalk as she and her friends were robbed.
And that can't be right, anyhow, cause not everybody's kids escape uninjured.
Can you tell me if there is a questionnaire that we give to a criminal to determine which ones will be "nice" and not kill their victims? Just hurt them a "little" or leave them in fear for a while? How much is "a little"? How long is an okay "while"?
Maybe I've misunderstood the whole "if it saves one life" policy; Does it mean that, so long as it's MY kids life that's saved by being unarmed on the streets of Chicago, the disarmed citizen policy in Illinois is still justified? Which kid? What do I tell the siblings? What do I tell my neighbors, as they mourn for their slain kids?
What if it's your kid that gets killed or hurt, Mr. Legislator, and I'm unable to help?
A couple of these kids aren't mine by birth: they just hang out at my house cause they feel safe here. Should I tell them to stop feeling safe?
To me, they're all my kids, and I tell them every day how valuable they all are. One studies daily for her GED, one's in college to be a grade school teacher, one's still in high school, one works twelve hours a day helping underprivileged children, one's less than a semester away from getting his law degree. Should I ease up on the value talk? Should I tell them that, "Hey, folks die every day, that's just the way it is?" Devalue life a little bit so they don't think there's anything unusual about being helpless victims?
No. That can't be right. Because that is exactly how you grow a criminal. You desensitize him to the value of life, take away his sense of what is right and what is wrong, and expose him to crime after crime after crime after crime until he sees no hope for the future and learns to either be a victim or to look for victims.
And that is exactly how you grow a victim. Let them know that there is no chance of anyone nearby who has the ability to help them if they find themselves at the mercy of an attacker. Gee, it sounds like the same thing you tell a would-be attacker, doesn't it? Let them know that they need have no fear of anyone being able to fight back. And they will come. And they do come. And keep on coming. There are entire blocks in Chicago where street attacks have occurred weekly -- WEEKLY, Legislator! -- for years without a single arrest being made.
Dear Legislator, please tell me what I am to say to my kids today, when they ask me why this keeps happening to them. I really want to know. I don't mean to cut into your busy day. I just want to do what's right.
Maybe it would be easiest to just share with me what you tell your own kids and I will share it with mine.
I totally understand that your intentions were good when Illinois first believed that criminals would obey the same no-gun laws that the law-abiding follow ... but what do you tell your kids when they ask you why we have not ripped away that errant foundation as has every other state within America? What do you tell them when they ask how you will know which of them will be hurt or killed by an attacker, and how you have chosen that to be okay by you?
What do you tell your kids when they ask why we elected you, then gave some of you the right to conceal carry, and others of you the expense of a protection detail, and then nod our heads in submission as you tell the rest of us that it is better that we do not get the same ability to defend ourselves?
Criminals know that there are less than a thousand Chicago cops armed and able to stop them during any given shift these days.
I personally know thousands of Illinois private citizens who take their citizen responsibility seriously enough that 34 other states trust them to calmly, competently and maturely carry concealed firearms as they live their daily lives. The children in those states can stand on their own steps, shop in convenience stores and wait for busses near malls with the confidence that they and would-be criminals are constantly aware that someone may be right nearby to thwart an attack and help them stay safe. Someone who has so committed themselves to time, training and mastery of defense that they stand out easily as the calmest ones seen in an emergency situation.
But in Illinois, criminals and victims walk our streets with only the confidence that, unless you -- personally, Legislator -- stand in support of HB 148 and bring concealed carry to the lone holdout state of Illinois, no one will ever come to your children's aid if they, like my kids, find themselves at the mercy of an attack. This can't be right, can it?
Though I have taken the time to learn and master the calm and skill necessary to defend my family and yours, I cannot personally afford a security detail for my family at this time. If you won't allow me to defend my children - and yours - in the face of armed attack on the streets of Illinois, will you kindly share your protection detail with my family? My neighbor wants to hear your answer, too.
And, if you will not, then tell me, please: What shall I say to my kid today, as I help him through the sound he's heard again and again for the past 12 hours?
You remember -- the one that goes "5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ...?"
How long should he wait for the final "click"?
How long should I?