G-PAC, Brady Campaign and Families Unite for Gun Safety

The Gun Violence Prevention Political Action Committee (G-PAC) and the national Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence convened with dozens of gun violence victims and advocates yesterday to proudly endorse Pat Quinn for a second term as Governor of Illinois over his opponent, Bruce Rauner. The event was held in front of the LaSalle Blue Line train station in Chicago, where a gunman armed with an assault rifle fired shots at oncoming commuter trains just last week.

Governor Quinn scored 100% on the G-PAC Candidate Questionnaire, and has signed historic lifesaving legislation into law, including requiring universal background checks and mandatory reporting of lost/stolen guns to prevent illegal trafficking. In addition, he has led the charge for a statewide ban on semi-automatic, military-style assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines.

In contrast, Bruce Rauner avoided responding to the G-PAC Candidate Questionnaire, does not support common sense gun safety legislation and has come under fire among leading gun violence prevention leaders for “out of touch” statements he has made in opposition to legislation banning semi-automatic, military-style assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines.  When asked when it would be appropriate to use an assault weapon, Rauner stated, “It would be up to the owner. I do think it’s target practice for use…as they choose fit.”

“Clearly Mr. Rauner is out of touch with the communities he seeks to govern.  What he may not realize is that human beings, our children and even innocent commuters on the way home from work on our CTA trains are the targets of these deadly weapons.” said Kathleen Sances, Executive Director of G-PAC, as gun violence victims and advocates stood behind her holding signs with targets on them and the words, including “I am a Target” and “Children are Targets.”

Representing the national Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence were Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi, 24, was tragically shot-and-killed in the horrific July 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting by a gunman armed with a Smith & Wesson MP15 Assault Rifle, a .40 Glock pistol and a Remington 12 gauge shotgun along with a 100-round ammunition magazine.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
Several gun violence victims attended the event to express their support for Governor Quinn, and to make it clear that assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines pose a real risk to Illinois communities by sharing their personal tragedies.

Joy McCormack shared the story of the tragic shooting death of her son, Frankie Valencia, Jr., a star student at DePaul University who had been nominated to intern at the White House and was scheduled to receive the Lincoln Laureate Award from Governor Quinn before being shot-and-killed at a college party by a young assailant armed with a $300 Tec-9 semi-automatic assault weapon.

Also in attendance were Charlene Davis, who has been helping raise four-year-old Nazhia Thompson, since her mother, Chanda Thompson, 21, was brutally shot-and-killed by a gunman armed with a high capacity ammunition magazine in front of a Chatham bakery after buying a cake for Nazhia’s second birthday in November 2011.

“I want Bruce Rauner to understand that no parent should ever experience what I have experienced.  For the rest of your life, your memory of your child is your child being murdered,” said Annette Holt, mother of Blair Holt, 16, an honors student who was shot-and-killed in 2007 while shielding a young girl from gang crossfire on a CTA bus, and the namesake of the Cook County Board of Commissioner’s “Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban.” “If he understood that, he would be out there campaigning to protect our children – the real targets of these deadly weapons — by making the assault weapons ban statewide law.”

Follow these links for a complete roundup of the news from the press conference.

As the Lake County State’s Attorney, I am honored and humbled every day to lead the fight against crime, and to strive to ensure equal and just treatment under the law. I have been an attorney for twenty-two years – and each of those years has made me a stronger and smarter advocate for people, for ideas, and for the principles that unite us all.

I am so proud to lead an office of 140 dedicated colleagues who serve the public by prosecuting crime, advocating for victims, and planning crime prevention programs. I am also proud to work with hundreds of Lake County police officers on a daily basis to connect with every community and to develop comprehensive, holistic plans to respond to the mental health and economic crisis that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On one particular day, July 4, 2022, I was saddened, inspired, and motivated by the bravery of so many people. We will always stand with the victims and honor the police and other first responders who ran toward the danger. Just as so many heroes that day thought only of themselves, I also witnessed the prosecutors in my office answer the call to serve survivors and their community – even on one of its darkest days.

Every moment that I have been your legal representative, I have worked tirelessly to oversee prosecutions and to implement policies that make my family and my neighbors safer in the short term and in the long term. That is the job of the State’s Attorney: to prosecute, to innovate, and to strategically plan.

I was raised in a small town. My parents are teachers, and from them, I learned that everyone must be treated equally and that America’s sacred mission is to provide a political, economic, and legal system that allows anyone to prosper regardless of the circumstances of their birth. After graduating from Knox College and the University of Chicago Law School, I spent two years at a first-rate civil law firm in Chicago where I learned that hard work and attention to detail on every case mean the difference between success and failure.

With my wonderful wife Stephanie, I am raising my two sons, Sam and Teddy, in Lake County. Nothing is more important to me than my family’s safety and I bring that passion and determination to protect all families with me to work every day.

I joined the Lake County Public Defender’s Office in 2003 and started my own law firm in 2009. From 2003 until 2020, I watched the Lake County legal system fail to prioritize violent crime, prevent wrongful prosecutions, or address racial disparities.

So, in 2019, I decided to run for State’s Attorney so that I could serve our community by improving a local legal system that cared more about covering up its mistakes and biases than uncovering new and innovative ways to help people.

I won the 2020 election, and became the first Democrat to hold this position in 40 years. Bringing in a new party wasn’t as important as ending 40 years of one mindset that had forgotten the people and that had failed to act urgently to develop new strategic plans to prevent crime while also ensuring that each prosecution is smart, moral, and just.

We have followed through on our promises. We have built the first-ever violent crimes unit, increased prosecutors in our domestic violence division, and vastly upgraded our cyber lab. Now, we have top-notch software and personnel to finally keep up with those who would exploit others.

We have been awarded a large federal grant to bring the first ever Human Trafficking Task Force to Lake County. We have deepened our investment in people by bringing in more victim specialists and raising the salaries of many of our prosecutors.

But the work goes on. We must expand our prevention efforts that are starting with the Gun Violence Prevention Initiative launched in 2022. And we know that the opioid crisis touches thousands of lives throughout this country.

I am proud to serve on the Executive Board of the Lake County Opioid Initiative which has been working tirelessly since its founding in 2012 to reverse a devastating trend of increased overdoses. In 2022, our office was part of a national settlement against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

As an attorney of 22 years, I have committed my life to helping people, and I have conducted over 70 jury trials in Lake County, and handled appeals that have culminated in over 20 oral arguments before the appellate court and Supreme Court of Illinois.

I see my time in this office as the next phase of helping a community that I love and where I have chosen to raise my family. In my first term, we have made Lake County safer and fairer through just prosecutions, constitutional policing, and innovative crime prevention policies.