'A scar on you for the rest of your life': Relatives of people killed with guns gather in St. Charles

  • Rob Anderson of Sugar Grove talks about the toll the death of his son, Brendon, took on his family at a Wear Orange event hosted by Moms Demand Action Friday at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles. Friday was National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

      Rob Anderson of Sugar Grove talks about the toll the death of his son, Brendon, took on his family at a Wear Orange event hosted by Moms Demand Action Friday at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles. Friday was National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Alicia Schemel, center, of Hinsdale hugs Rob Anderson of Sugar Grove during Friday's "Wear Orange" community event that helped mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Schemel's father was killed in 1999 and Anderson's son was slain in 1998.

      Alicia Schemel, center, of Hinsdale hugs Rob Anderson of Sugar Grove during Friday's "Wear Orange" community event that helped mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Schemel's father was killed in 1999 and Anderson's son was slain in 1998. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Anjum Coffland of St. Charles talks about the slaying of her twin daughters by her husband in 2017 during Friday's "Wear Orange" community event at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles. The event was hosted by the The Kane and Kendall counties chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and marked National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Anjum was also shot by her husband before he killed himself.

      Anjum Coffland of St. Charles talks about the slaying of her twin daughters by her husband in 2017 during Friday's "Wear Orange" community event at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles. The event was hosted by the The Kane and Kendall counties chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and marked National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Anjum was also shot by her husband before he killed himself. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Rob Anderson of Sugar Grove bows his head during a moment of silence during a "Wear Orange" event hosted by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Friday at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles.

      Rob Anderson of Sugar Grove bows his head during a moment of silence during a "Wear Orange" event hosted by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Friday at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/7/2019 4:46 PM

It's been 21 years since Rob Anderson of Sugar Grove had to go to the Kane County morgue to identify the body of his 20-year-old son, Brendon.

Brendon had been shot to death in an alley in Aurora.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We were annihilated," Anderson said of his wife and Brendon's younger brother. That brother dropped out of college. Anderson closed his photography business. The family declared bankruptcy. Anderson focused on the search for the killer, which took 10 years, and then the man's trial, which took another five.

"When he died, a lot of me died as well," Anderson said.

But Friday, wearing an orange shirt, he thanked the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America for drawing attention to the subject of gun violence, at a #wearorange gathering at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles.

"What you are doing is preventing more of me," he said.

At least 40 adults and children participated.

The Moms group lobbies for laws requiring background checks before purchases of guns, and for red-flag laws that allow police or relatives to petition a court to take guns away from someone they believe is dangerous.

It works against laws allowing guns in schools or requiring colleges to allow guns on campus. It asks gun owners to store guns securely so children can't get to them and urges parents to ask other parents if there are guns in a home before allowing their children to visit.

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Orange was the favorite color of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old Chicago girl fatally shot in 2013. After her death, her friends wore orange to honor her, and because orange is the color people wear in the woods to avoid being shot by hunters.

In the past month, the mayors of Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles issued proclamations, approved by the city councils, recognizing National Gun Violence Awareness Day. St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina and Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke attended Friday's gathering.

Schielke was one of four "survivors" of gun violence who spoke. An uncle was killed during an armed robbery. Schielke, who was a paid-on-call firefighter at the time, got called to the scene, not knowing who the victim was.

"It leaves a scar on you for the rest of your life," he said.

Rogina and Schielke are the liquor commissioners for their cities. To get a liquor license, an applicant has to be fingerprinted, as part of a background check.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We can certainly demand a fingerprint for a FOID," Rogina said, calling on members of the Illinois Senate to vote on the "Fix the FOID" bill. That bill would require fingerprints for people applying for a firearm owners identification card. Fingerprints now are required only to get a concealed-carry license.

State Rep. Kathleen Willis, a proponent, said at a Thursday forum that checking fingerprints at the beginning of a FOID application would help state police with the FOID workload. Currently, the process starts with a check of a person's mental health history and then proceeds to criminal background.

Anjum Coffland of St. Charles spoke about the loss of her twin daughters, who were killed by her estranged husband in 2016. Coffland also was shot in the attack, and her husband killed himself.

Her husband had been recently diagnosed with depression. "My husband should not have gotten a gun," Coffland said. "Why didn't I pay attention to things like this?"

She said even now, when grocery shopping, she thinks about buying things for her daughters.

"This (safety) is what we do as moms. We think about them 24/7," she said.

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