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DeKALB – A group that is fighting for Illinois residents to be able to carry concealed weapons said they spent several hours at Northern Illinois University on Wednesday to honor the victims of a campus shooting two years ago.
Shaun Kranish, executive director of ICarry.org, said the organization was gathering on the two-year, two-month anniversary of the Feb. 14, 2008, campus shooting to honor the five students who were killed. Another 21 people were injured in the incident at Cole Hall before the gunman killed himself.
“We are just trying to raise awareness and honor the victims of the massacre,” Kranish said during a phone interview before the event started. “ ... We believe we are honoring them by raising awareness of the fact that they were all helpless. Every single one in that hall was helpless and not able to have a way to protect themselves against the maniac who did that.”
The group met shortly after noon outside of the Holmes Student Center and intended to stay until the evening. Participants were wearing empty holsters to signify that Illinois does not allow residents to legally carry firearms The group talked with and passed out information to passers-by.
Maria Torres, 22, stopped to speak with the group. Torres, an Elgin resident who said she plans to transfer to NIU in the fall, said she is against carrying guns but that she wanted to hear what the group had to say.
“I have always associated (guns) with violence,” Torres said. “I have a bad idea of guns. I don’t think they do good.”
Scott Black, 30, of Sycamore said he came to the event to support his 2nd Amendment right to bear arms and to raise awareness.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Black said when asked why residents should have the right to bear arms. “You can’t have life if you can’t defend yourself. You can’t have liberty if you can’t defend yourself. And you need both to pursue happiness.”
The event also was sponsored by Students for Concealed Carry on Campus and GunMap.org. They said they also held the open holster event to raise awareness that many mass-casualty shootings have occurred in gun-free zones, a designation that Kranish said is not going to dissuade someone intent on committing murder.
NIU is a no-carry zone, NIU Police Sgt. Alan Smith said. The group alerted campus police that they would be there Wednesday, Smith said, and they “weren’t a disturbance.” Scott Peska, director of NIU’s Office for Support and Advocacy, said Wednesday afternoon that no one had come into his office with concerns about the group. OSA works with those most affected by the 2008 shooting.
Guns can be legally purchased by Illinois residents, who need to have a Firearm Owner’s Identification card and follow other rules. But residents cannot carry them openly or concealed. To legally transport a firearm, it must be unloaded and enclosed in a case by a person who has a valid FOID card, according to the Illinois State Police.
The state’s criminal code refers to “a case, firearm carrying box, shipping box, or other container,” according to the Illinois State Police Web site.