Guns Save Life is known for it’s road-side signs along Illinois Interstates and highways proclaiming pro-gun messages to over a half-million people each and every day. We took to delivering our message directly to our fellow Americans after a local billboard company declined to sell us billboard space, citing our message as “too controversial”.
We’re also known for our monthly Guns Save Life meetings. Currently held in four cities, and soon to be in Chicago and other locations, GSL brings great speakers, informative new and information, technical information to members and guests. That’s in addition to sharing good fellowship, friendship and food ahead of the monthly gathering of the faithful.
There’s no charge to attend these meetings and they are open to everyone.
Here’s what happened at the March 2015 Guns Save Life meeting in Champaign.
If you missed it, you missed a lot.
March 10, 2015 Meeting Notes
With GSL’s President Bear St. Pierre feeling a bit under the weather, Vice President Adrienne Logue stepped up to the podium and led the meeting, beginning as always with the Pledge of Allegiance and the introduction of first-time visitors. We had first-timers from far afield as Kankakee, Indianola, Tuscola, and the Springfield area. We hope you all become regulars to share the fellowship with us.
This report was given by VP Logue. The biggest topic was IGOLD, Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day, which was set for a week and a day after this meeting. She mentioned the schedule for the day, and that it was important that you attend, no matter how you got there. Take the GSL buses from Danville, Urbana, or Decatur; take other busses that can be scheduled at ISRA.org; or drive yourself (and your family and friends; don’t travel alone!). Join us at noon for the rally at the Prairie Capital Convention Center; walk the 5 blocks or so to the Capitol; and be seen in your elected officials’ offices.
A reminder: NO GUNS. We may have right to carry, but the buses, the convention center, and the Capitol are all “No Guns” locations, and you will have to pass security at the Capitol Complex..
And finally: have a good time! Celebrate our freedom. This event does make a big difference, especially among legislators who are ambivalent about guns.
Preparedness Group Seeking Members
Mark Thompson spoke briefly for the Christian Emergency Preparedness Network. He and David Pike have been working on putting this together for a while now, and they are seeking members to sign up for their email network.
Mark said they wanted, as Christians, not only to make sure that their families are prepared for any emergency, but that they might be able to help others as well in such a situation. A prudent man will provide for his family. Preparedness involves more than a deep pantry. There is strength in numbers, and networking with like-minded folks can make everyone better off. ‘
Why worry about this? “Just in the last two years,” Mark said, “the government has taken over the internet, opened the borders, and tried to ban ammunition. No, wait, that was just in the last two weeks!” That got a chuckle from the crowd and the point was made. Bad things can happen, and the more we are prepared, the better it will be for us, and for the government. As another recent example, he cited Venezuela, which has been suffering from 1,000 percent inflation. That means that food, and everything else, costs 10 times what it used to cost.
You can sign up for updates from the Christian Emergency Preparedness Network by emailing email@example.com.
Larry Shurbet, GSL Treasurer, talked about our membership numbers. They have been increasing every year since 2009 – until this past year when they have fallen a bit flat. Larry pointed out that as a group we give away thousands of dollars each year to programs that teach youth shooting and respect for firearms. We give to programs, we provide ammo and guns, and we do scholarships. Larry urged those in attendance, and you who are reading this, if you’re not already a member, please join. It’s money well spent to preserve and extend our freedom.
Adrienne Logue added that GunNews is a great recruitment tool. Pick up some extra copies and give them away to people who might be interested. There are usually extra copies at every meeting, and you can also pick some up at High Caliber Training Center in Urbana.
Executive Director’s Report.
FIRST UP: VICTORY! The ATF announced today that they were suspending a proposal to ban M855 AR-15 ammo through regulatory action. 80,000 of us submitted comments… and they listened. For now. When we ask you to do stuff and you follow through, we tend to see positive results.
SUPPRESSORS: Call your legislators now. Especially Champaign County’s new Senator Scott Bennett and Rep. Carol Ammons. The other side has no real arguments against this bill and some “squishy” lawmakers are seeing little reason to oppose the bill. See our suppressor story elsewhere in GunNews.
Which brings us to IGOLD: It’s coming up in 8 days. Wednesday, March 18th.
Our good friends at Defense Distributed are making a Ghost Gun machine for Guns Save Life. We’ll let you know when it arrives.
GSL member Frank Wright has been appointed as a member of the Illinois Concealed Carry Review Board! Frank Wright said he would take the position with great care and work to ensure the rights of the applicants referred to the Board were protected. He also said to disregard his past comments on overpaid government bureaucrats, to great laughter from the audience.
Mr. Boch cautioned members regarding political theater at the state and national level. Two very popular bills, one to allow national reciprocity at the national level and another to repeal the FOID card at the state level are great bills, but they don’t stand a snowball’s chance of passage. Don’t fall for unscrupulous gun rights groups raising money to lobby to pass those bills.
Our new governor has slashed funding for CeaseFire Ilinois. We say slash it all!
Mr. Boch urged all present to learn how to file witness slips so they may also have a disproportionate impact on legislation considered before state government committees. These can be done electronically on computer now. He also said that any slips filed before March 1st would need to be re-filed. There’s a list of them at Guns Save Life’s website, gunssavelife.com.
FOID applications are going digital, staring Monday, March 16th. There’s a call-in number (217-782-7980) to apply for those without Internet.
John reminded everyone that situational awareness doesn’t stop just because you are at home. He also urged members to have a plan for a home invasion, just as you have a plan in case of fire. Why? Because criminals are breaking into homes while residents are home in order to get into big gun safes – where cash, jewelry, guns and other valuables are stored. “It’s easier to have you open the safe than to struggle with forcing bigger safes open with tools. We wrote about this in the January issue of GunNews.
In Georgia, just last week, four or five intruders forced entry on a home and killed the residents after the husband opened the safe. How did they know he had a big safe and lots of guns and valuables? Social media posts. “Be careful what you post on Facebook and other social media,” Boch said. “…and who you let in your home.”
Lastly, Peoria’s GSL meeting is moving to Childers Banquet center in Peoria.
In addition to his report, Mr. Boch was tasked with calling a general members meeting to made some amendatory changes to our bylaws. It had been almost a dozen years since they were updated.
All of the amendments were passed unanimously. They were (with explanations in parenthesis):
1. Change the Corporate Name in Article I from Champaign County Rifle Association to Guns Save Life. (We formally registered Guns Save Life, Inc. late last year.)
2. Change Article IV, section 1: the location of public posting of corporate notices from 401 N. Broadway, Urbana, IL to 601 N. Country Fair Drive, Champaign, IL. (The Urbana address was where Dave’s Guns was at the time and is longer used.)
3. Change Article III, Section 2 to add “Life members. Life memberships are persons whose membership shall continue on a lifetime basis once the dues are paid and they meet any other conditions approved by the board.” (We’ve been selling Life Memberships for over a year now and thought it time to update the bylaws to reflect it formally.)
Rantoul FFA Alumni
Susan Scott was present from the Rantoul FFA Alumni, offering tickets to their fundraising Gun/Cash Raffle. That organization is not affiliated with or representing Rantoul Township High School or District 193. They are an independent, non-profit organization, not a booster club. What they do is help support Ag students and beginning farmers in the Rantoul area.
They are raffling two guns, or the cash equivalent, with the drawing to take place on May 6. They are giving away a Beretta A400 Xtreme Mossy Oak shotgun, and a Smith and Wesson M&P 45 Compact. Tickets are $20 each or 6 for $100. Only 500 tickets will be sold. Drawing date is May 6, 2015. To get a ticket and help the Ag students, email Susie at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 217-377-4429.
Susan thanked all of us for our support, and the board for allowing her to set up a table at the meeting.
Atwood Armory Charity Fundraiser
Another opportunity was made available to help a worthy cause by Bryan Butcher of Atwood Armory. Atwood Armory is running a fundraising drawing to benefit Chris Striegel. Chris is a local resident who was injured in a diving accident on Labor Day weekend 2014. As a result of his accident, he is currently paralyzed from the armpits down. Bryan has no doubt, however, that with his remarkable attitude, he will find a way to walk again.
Tickets are available for a $20 donation for a PAIR of Ruger Vaquero SASS .357 revolvers. These fine firearms sport rare consecutive serial numbers, 4 5/8 inch barrels, a special Montado-style hammer, and a red commemorative carrying case. They are designed for SASS Cowboy Action shooting, and are finished in high gloss stainless. Retail value on this pair is over $1600.
If you want to donate and get a chance at these guns, you’ll have to hurry; tickets are on sale through March 27. You can pick up a ticket at the Atwood Armory, located one mile north and a quarter mile east of the Atwood fire station. You can also find them at www.atwoodarmory.com.
Tristan and Shay Ihrke, a brother-sister team from Ford County, spoke about the Young Guns program of Ford County Pheasants Forever. They thanked GSL for its past support, and proudly pointed out that our banner hangs from the side of their air rifle trailer when they take it out for events, and also flies at their regular events. They hold about 20 youth-related shooting, hunting, and fishing events each year. It started in 2008 with 35 kids, and now serves over 600 kids each year. Young Guns shoots average 100 participants at each shoot under the age of 18.
All this is done with donations. Their big fundraiser of the year is coming up March 21, at the Roberts Gymnasium in Roberts, IL. It is a Pheasants Forever Banquet, at which 30 guns will be given away in honor of their 30th anniversary. To RSVP for the dinner, call Fred Magers at 217-379-4726. To learn more and see some nice photos of young people enjoying our freedoms, go to www.pfyoungguns.com.
Tammi Dash spoke briefly about the Dewitt County Sportsman’s Club, and invited everyone to participate in their “Bunny Blast” shoot on Saturday, March 28. No, you won’t get to blast bunnies – the public relations from something like that just would not look good.
But you can try a round shooting hanging eggs (artificial, this time so they can be filled with confetti and explode impressively when hit). $5 per flight gets you 20 seconds and as many shots as you like to bring down your eggs. Five or six shooters on each flight, and a prize for each flight. Reenter as many times as you wish. Have a good time.
Tammi said that the Dewitt club is trying to hold more new and original types of shoots. Their Zombie shoot each October is very popular, and they hope that the Bunny Blast will also prove to be something that shooters look forward to.
The Dewitt Club is located about 6 miles east of Clinton, or about 20 miles west of Champaign. Look for the big red barn at the foot of Clinton Lake.
Joe Morelock of Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Joe had a two part presentation, on some of the current things that IDNR is doing here in Illinois, and a presentation on the mindset of surviving a deadly force incident, using an example from his own life. We’ll cover the IDNR stuff here; for Joe’s personal story of survival, see appended story.
Three of the major things that IDNR provides are hunter safety education, public access to land, and opportunities to shoot.
Hunter safety has been a primary focus of IDNR for years. The Hunter Safety program is now overseen by the law enforcement division of IDNR. In 2013 there were 20,000 students who took the course. That was a slight uptick, as many took the course that year as part of meeting the 16 hour training requirement for the newly-passed permit to carry law. 2014 attendance was about normal at 16,000.
To get more youth involved in hunting, IDNR has offered a one-year apprentice hunting license. They have now expanded to a youth hunting license, which is valid as long as the youth is with a licensed adult. 8000 of those 16,000 last year took that route.
As an aside, Joe mentioned that IDNR is pro, not anti, gun. People who shoot and hunt fund the IDNR, through Pittman-Robertson taxes and license fees. That funding pays for conservation officers, as well as new lands for public access for hunting.
Public access is another major mission of IDNR. The Department manages and makes available 201 hunting areas around Illinois. Last year, on the 188 parcels for which they have records, there were 231,000 hunting trips, with 173,000 “units” (deer, squirrel, rabbit, bird, whatever) taken. That sounds like a lot, but that was a 10 percent usage decline and a 10 percent drop in harvest from previous years. One recent land acquisition was 4,500 acres (about half) of the Burning Star mine land in Jackson County north of Carbondale.
Joe also mentioned many of the shooting opportunities available through IDNR. Trap shooting and small caliber shooting is available at some sites. The World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta has three and a half miles of trap fields, as well as pistol and rifle ranges. Those ranges are host to the Grand American trap shoot each year, as well as other trap and skeet contests, SASS, IDPA, and other pistol competitions, and rifle shooting. IDNR also supports the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, which teaches shooting throughout Illinois and holds two national shoots at Sparta in July.
Revolution Concepts Custom Kydex Holsters
Matt Painter was on hand with a table full of goodies, handcrafted Kydex holsters, mag holders, and other accessories. Matt said his background was in manufacturing, welding, and fabricating. He was also a competition shooter, and started making gear for himself.
As he went to ranges and competitions, more and more people noticed his gear, found out he could make it, and asked him to make them some. About two years ago he turned that into a business, and started making things full time.
He said his turnaround time from order to shipment is about two weeks unless you order something in some exotic color or pattern – in that case it might be three weeks. If you go to his website, www.revolution-concepts.com, and don’t see what you want, just ask him – he loves a challenge.
John Boch added a testimonial, saying that he met Matt at a recent Force on Force class, and watched his gear get a good workout. John said it was good quality gear, with good attention to detail.
Thanks to Matt for showing us some good accessories.
SPECIAL NOTE: Revolution Concepts coupon code for Guns Save Life members. 10% off. Code “GSL”
As usual, the meeting was topped off with the awarding of a couple of dozen door prizes, and drawing for our “one gun a month”.
Bill Harrison was the lucky winner of the Ruger 10-22 50th Anniversary Edition Rifle. Congratulations!
See you next month on the Second Tuesday in Champaign.
The personal story of Joe Morelock
Summary by John Naese
At our March GSL meeting in Champaign, after giving a summary of IDNR programs and news, Joe told us his story of defending himself and his children from an attacker in his home. The incident in December 2012 lasted nearly 9 minutes; the aftermath took considerably longer. He prefaced his remarks by telling us he was going to move around the room while he talked; he wanted to be open and not keeping a podium between himself and the listeners, because he had nothing to hide. He also warned us that it might get emotional, as the incident involved his family and this was the first time he had ever spoken publicly to a group about it.
As background to his decision-making that night, he gave us a summary of his background and training. After high school, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps, seeing active duty in Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Operation Eastern Exit (Somalia), Cuba (Operation GTMO-2 tours in support of Haitian Migrant Crisis), and Puerto Rico. While in the military, he had MP and SWAT training. After his service, he worked as a part time police officer while going to college. When he was through with school, he applied to the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which is the agency that selected him. He has also gone to the State Police Academy and the DNR academy, and has since worked his way up to be deputy chief of the law enforcement division of IDNR. He also was part of a team that went to New Orleans for a few weeks to assist after Hurricane Katrina.
He has had to discharge his weapon three times in the line of duty – twice at animals, once at Bengal tiger. He was also wounded in the face and legs by shotgun pellets during the apprehension of a armed robbery suspect in one incident. “I know guns from both ends,” he said.
He wanted us to know about those trainings and experiences because if any of us are ever involved in an incident like he was about to describe, we might well make different choices about how much to intervene, and when or when not to use our firearm.
December 16, 2012 was a good day for Joe and his family – until that night. Extended family stopped by their home in Decatur earlier in the day, and later his wife left for an overnight with other relatives at a bed and breakfast in another town. He took his kids Christmas shopping – they were 10 and 6 at the time – and when they got home, he let them stay up late watching movies and camping out on the living room floor. He was with them in the living room late that night, sleeping, when he heard a loud noise.
Joe looked out his front door, and saw a woman sitting on his front lawn, and a man standing over her choking her. Both appeared to be in their early 20’s. Joe forcefully told the guy to go away, and the guy walked to the end of Joe’s driveway, where his squad car was located; he then stopped and started pounding on the woman’s car, yelling and cursing at the woman and at Joe.
Joe ran upstairs and retrieved a gun – a 1911 pistol. Running back down to the front door, he found the woman pounding on the door, begging to be let in, and the man advancing on her, clearly intent on resuming his attack on her.
Joe let the girl in, ordered her to stand in one corner, and decided at that point that he needed a different weapon. He thought his duty belt with his duty sidearm was downstairs, so he ran down to get it, only to find that it wasn’t there. He remembered then that he had left it in the trunk of his squad car. He did find his issued Glock downstairs, however, with which he had shot thousands of rounds over the years. “It was an extension of my hand” he said of his familiarity with that weapon.
Running back up the stairs, he was on the phone with 911, describing what he was wearing (not much, just green shorts and a t-shirt). Why tell them this? Because the police were on their way, and he wanted them to know what the good guy looked like before they showed up, so he didn’t get shot by responding officers. “Decatur Police,” he said admiringly “don’t miss much.” He wanted them to know who not to shoot before they got there.
As he returned to the main floor, the cursing assailant forced his way into the house, and began advancing on the woman. Joe had his firearm pointed at the assailant from the moment he entered the house, and kept giving commands to the assailant, all of which the assailant ignored. The man began attacking the woman again, and Joe continued to tell him to get away, get on the ground, etc.
You can hear all this on the 911 call, which was released publicly after the incident, and is nearly nine minutes long. Joe gave the man every opportunity to cease the attack, probably more opportunity than most of us would. Joe said he was trying to buy time for responding officers to arrive. The assailant, instead of backing down or complying, stripped off his hat and shirt, and kept advancing on Joe, challenging Joe to “shoot me”. Joe kept himself between his kids and the assailant, and kept giving ground, hoping the police would get there in time.
The assailant backed him all the way into his living room, where his kids were sleeping. They were awake now, and the older one was covering the younger one with his body, hiding both of them under a blanket. Joe kept giving verbal commands, kept giving ground, until he was standing next to his children with his back to the wall.
And then Joe fired his weapon and took the man’s life.
He did what he had to do, when he had no other option.
If you are involved in a use of force like this, you will be a suspect until proven otherwise. Joe knew this, and complied with the officers who arrived. He was put in the back of a squad car, and eventually taken to the police station. Joe said that after such an incident, your thinking will be cloudy, and it is best, after answering the basic questions of who you are and where you live, to assert your right to counsel and stop making statements until later, when your body has recovered and your mind has had a chance to clear.
As he sat in the back of that patrol car in his driveway, a jumble of thoughts were crashing through his head:
“I just killed in front of my kids.”
“I just ruined Christmas.”
“The house is ruined.”
“We can’t come back here.”
The kids, of course, would have to go somewhere, as he was being detained for questioning. Their mom was out of town. They asked Joe where she was. He didn’t know the address; he was able to tell them the name of the B&B and the town. They asked for her phone number; he couldn’t remember it. A number he used every day, but so much was going on in his mind he couldn’t remember it. They said that was all right, they would figure it out. He suggested the boy’s basketball coach, who lived nearby and had kids about the same ages as his, as someone who could take care of the kids for the night. He was able to give a name, but again, not an address or phone number. They figured that out, too, and the kids were taken care of.
All that goes back to his earlier advice of asking for counsel and not making a statement about the event immediately. His mind just wasn’t up to giving accurate information that soon after the incident.
He was taken to the police station, and the police again started to ask him what had happened. “I very respectfully told them that I hoped they understood, but the police union I was a member of had a lawyer available to me and I wanted to talk to them before saying anything else.” The investigator was not upset with him, and no undue pressure was put on him to talk before he was ready.
They had been able to find his wife, and told her that the few clothes he was wearing were likely to be taken as evidence. Later that night, he was allowed to leave, wearing the clothes his wife had purchased at Walmart in the middle of the night on the way to the station.
He couldn’t go home. Not only was his front door broken and his house a mess, it was still a crime scene and investigators were still there. Also, threats from the family of the “suspect” were already coming in.
After the incident, Joe got counseling for the kids, and also for himself. “That was a very good decision”, he said. One of the first things the psychiatrist told him was to get out of that house. Sell it and move. He told Joe that he would never be comfortable there again; that he’d never be able to relax; and it would slowly destroy his family. Joe took that advice.
The Press – Not Your Friend
The initial reports in the media were that someone had been “murdered” at his house. They sensationally reported the event, not to his benefit. Later, he and some friends came over to the house to move out personal belongings. He asked the press people to please not film them as they took stuff out of the house; they ignored his requests, and filmed away. The press will say what they want to say, and do what they want to do, and it probably won’t be good for you.
The family members and friends of the “suspect” not only communicated threats to Joe and his family, they harassed his neighbors looking for people to testify against him. Joe was grateful that brother officers from his department and others stood by while Joe and friends moved stuff out of the house.
The incident saved Joe’s family from harm – and cost the family about $40,000 all told. Hotels, counseling, and relocation were all expensive. Immediate repairs had to be done to the house, and because of all the press coverage, the market value took a nosedive. Joe took a $17,000 loss when he sold the house. There were relocation expenses. And he had to live with his mother-in-law for a year.
Results of the Investigation
The case went to a coroner’s jury, where the family members of the deceased again appeared and brought accusations against Joe. The jury came back, and in a very unusual occurrence, made a statement before delivering their verdict: “The safety and sanctity of the home shall not be violated.” They then ruled this as a case of justifiable homicide.
Joe summarized his experience.
“I’m glad I had a gun. I’m glad I had all that training. Be vigilant. Complacency kills.”
Joe said he kept a copy of everything that was written about him or the incident. When GSL asked him to speak to our group, he remembered the support he had gotten from us at the time on our website, both in the story and the comments from GSL members supporting his actions that night. Perfect strangers, yet supporting him when he needed it most. He reread that stuff, and decided to accept our invitation.
We’re glad he did. It was a heartfelt talk that drew a standing ovation at the end. Joe gladly answered questions, both during the presentation and after the meeting.
We’re lucky to have such a man as this in law enforcement, and as a neighbor in our society. Thank you, Joe, for coming to speak and for doing what you do.
Yes, if you miss a meeting, you miss a lot.
Join us next month at Guns Save Life. We’ll save you a seat.