Hello. Thanks for joining us today. I wanted to share with you a conversation with someone who really has her boots on the ground and is engaged in a grassroots campaign to effect change in her community. I'm joined here today by Kathleen Sances. Kathleen has served as the President and CEO of the Gun Violence Prevention Political Action Committee since November 2013, and the Gun Violence Prevention Action Committee since 2017. Gun Violence Prevention PAC Illinois was founded in 2013 by victims and survivors of gun violence who wanted to counter the influence of the gun lobby in Springfield. G-PAC Illinois is the only political action committee in the United States focused on raising funds to elect and support lawmakers committed to protecting children, families, and communities from gun violence and to defeat those who don't. She's going to talk with us today about her experience with successes and challenges to promote changes in her states firearm purchaser licensing loss. Kathleen, thanks for joining me. Thank you for having me and I'm excited about this opportunity to talk about what we're doing in Illinois. Great. So let's jump in. How does your role in your organization contribute to policy change? We have an alliance of organizations that each has a different function but we all have the same goal, and that goal is to pass lifesaving policy. So we have a 501C3 which starts with education, and data, and research. Once we formulate a policy, the policies are then kicked over to the Action Committee which is a 501C4 where we perform a direct advocacy and a grassroots advocacy. That's great. Thank you. You mentioned research and data. So how do you communicate with policymakers in your work? Do you think that they're receptive to the data that you share? Absolutely. I think it's important for policymakers and for the advocates and residents to support a policy that has evidence that it works. You just can't go in and knock on somebody's door and asks for a policy and ask them to enact it. If you don't have proof that it actually, in this case is going to reduce gun violence and the homicide rate. We approach it in two ways. We hire professional lobby team that's in Springfield full time and then we also have a very aggressive grassroots advocacy campaign in all around the state and in targeted districts where we know we need to change lawmakers minds. Kathleen, thanks for sharing that. Can you talk a little bit about what prompted your organization to push forward with the Fix the FOID which is the Illinois licensing law, in other words, closing any gaps in that policy? So just call back, we started with research that was done for us by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They made 10 recommendations in the report of how to reduce gun violence in Illinois. Several of the recommendations had to do with fixing our licensing system. Our system for gun purchasers is broken. There are loopholes that allow people who should not be allowed to legally own guns, to buy them, and to continue to own them. What really pushed us to advocate for this bill this past session were two workplace shootings. One was at Mercy Hospital and the other one was at the Henry Pratt Manufacturing Location in Aurora, Illinois. Both of those shooters their FOID cards had been revoked and despite that they continued to possess guns and even continue to buy more guns. So it was a heart burning issue and we knew that this is something that would stop these purchases. In addition, data shows that 34,000 Illinoisians have been deemed unsafe to own firearms and 80 percent of those people still have their guns and their FOID cards. So trying to stop the access at the front end would prevent us from having to go revoke and get those guns back from people on the back end. So it just seemed like a good solution for Illinois. That's really interesting. Thank you for sharing that. So you mentioned the research and the data helping you to address some of the weaknesses in the FOID system in Illinois. Can you share just briefly how you talk with policymakers about the data, what messages resonated with them? Sure. Connecticut has probably one of the best versions of a license. Their gun violence has decreased 40 percent since they tightened up their licensing system. In reverse, Missouri used to have a licensing system and when they repealed it, you can see that their gun violence and homicide rate increased. So that evidence on both sides of how it works and when you don't have it what the consequences are, are compelling. That's really great to hear how data is playing an important role in the conversations that you're having. Can you share based on your experiences doing some of this grassroots work, what folks can do in their communities if they're interested in advocating for change to make their community safer? I would first look for coalitions or organizations in the state that already exist and may already be up and running to work on reducing gun violence. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel if the wheel is up and running. But it's also important that you look in your community for other people who have the same passion, and goal, and concerns as you do about reducing gun violence. So I would look to neighbors, friends, if you belong to any groups, faith groups, book clubs, and look for people who think like you do. They're out there because we know from polling that John Hopkins has done and other people across the nation, over 90 percent of the people agree that we need to do something to reduce gun violence in the nation. So we're out there, you just need to look for us. Once you find a group, I would have a house party and just talk about the issue and educate people further about what solutions there are and if there's a policy looming in your state or in the nation that you want to back, just get the word out about that. From that group, I would get some folks to do a power constituent meeting with your elected officials. A power meeting is a group if you go with your concerns, with the policy you back and you ask those elected officials to support you, it's really important that you're from their district. That means something to them because they work for you. After that, you can ask the elected official to hold a town hall with you so you can educate other people about gun violence and how you can fix it. If the elected official doesn't want to do a town hall, hold the town hall and have an empty chair for that person. Things that you can also do that are easy. You don't have to leave your house, you can e-mail your lawmakers and ask them to support the bill, you can make a phone call and ask them to support the bill. When they are in session, I say make a trip to the Capitol, show up and ask them again to support the bill and plan a big day of advocacy where everyone shows up. It's really important that you keep working. They want us to go away. This is a hard issue, these are hard bills to pass and it's not easy for them. They have to answer to us and they have to answer to the gun lobby. So if you go silent, they're not going to pick up these bills and pass any laws to keep us safer. So you have to be relentless and just keep on it. Change is incremental, but changes happening and it's working in our favor as long as we keep the noise up. Thank you Kathleen, for sharing some of those concrete steps of what our learners can do in their own communities to advocate for change. So one thing I wanted to talk with you about is there have been some legitimate concerns raised about the fair and just application of laws across different communities. But we also know that licensing isn't effective strategy to reduce gun violence. Can you share a little bit about how you and your organization have engaged with those who are disproportionately impacted by gun homicide, and how that's influenced your efforts to fix the void in Illinois? Sure. So when you want to pass a policy, you have to sit down and plan out a long-term strategy to do it and put everything in place to get the spill over the finish line. But the thing is you have to be prepared to make changes. When we started, we fixed the foil, we were focusing on parts of the bill that had to do with the revocation of foil cards. It got us so far and then we hit a speed bump and we realized that people in the black community and people in the brown community were not engaged with us. So we went back to the drawing boards, brought more people to the table, looked at the bill, and they actually found implements in the bill that were meaningful to people in the black community and in the brown community. So we changed our messaging at that point, we went from talking about revocations to talking about how we want to block illegal ownership and how some of the funding in our bill actually want to resource community and school mental health programs. So it's important that you look at all implements of the bill and determine what is going to be meaningful in all communities across the state. It's important to have people who are close to the problem at your table when you're having the initial conversations about solutions that are going to reduce gun violence, improve communities, make them healthy, reduce homicide rate, and reduce gun violence. Thank you so much for sharing the importance of elevating the voices of impacted communities and making sure that they have a voice at the table. Also, reflecting on your comment about some of the messaging, having conversations about gun violence or gun policy can be really challenging and we often get fear-based push back when we're trying to talk about data. Can you share how you've handled some of the gun lobby talking points or messaging in our work to advance this policy? So a couple of points. It's important when we're talking about gun ownership, not to criminalize it. Then also I recommend that people just don't go down this black hole with the gun lobby of trying to legitimize your bill or come up with an answer to end this Second Amendment concerns. You're not going to change those people. I say, look for people that are persuadable and bring them over to the fold. Great. Thank you. Is there anything you want to mention about the work that you've been doing or any of your efforts in Illinois that I haven't asked you about that you think will be important for our learners to hear about? Any stories you want to share? Well, we were excited because this past legislative session, we were able to pass this bill to fix our licensing system out of the house. It's the first time that we've ever been able to file a bill and pass it out of the house in one legislative session. We just think we can pass it in 2020, at the Senate we're looking at 30 votes. Starting with the new messaging, the Bio Bill, Black illegal ownership. We've got the city of Chicago and impacted communities on board with a new coalition. Everybody in the coalition has some skin in the game, is contributing resources, and is actually bringing folks to the table. So I think that's how you have to proceed and I feel good about our chances in 2020. Kathleen, thank you so much for joining me today and taking the time to share your experiences with the learners in this teach-out who can hopefully, take some concrete steps to advocate for change in their communities. Thank you for having me. I enjoyed it.