Chicago’s Rev. Michael Pfleger – a man I’ve never personally met, but spoken with on the phone – is either a remarkably good and forgiving person, or a hypocrite of monumental proportions. You be the judge.


       Pfleger is spearheading a gun turn-in project supported by the Clergy for Safer Streets involving some 50 religious leaders in the Windy City. They’ve asked private citizens to turn in guns – anonymously, of course – which are subsequently handed over to the Chicago Police Department’s CAGE (Chicago Anti-Gun Enforcement) unit. Similar efforts in other communities have always gotten lots of publicity as model programs to reduce violence. Studies show, however, that such gun turn-ins have no impact on crime rates.


       The Rev. Pfleger has a personal stake in this effort. His adopted 17-year-old son was gunned down in 1998 by an as-yet unidentified killer. Who could hold it against the good father for wanting to do something that might prevent another such crime?


       But there’s a problem with this story. Father Pfleger, by his own admission, is far less interested in catching criminals than he is in collecting guns. He  acknowledged that hard-core criminals will never turn in their guns.


       “I’ve found that people who have a gun and use it in crime don’t give it up,” he said. “People who basically have crime guns are people who usually hold onto their guns.”


       Allowing guns to be turned in anonymously has always left gun rights activists justifiably suspicious. They believe this provides a method for killers or their family members or friends, to get rid of a murder weapon and not be held accountable. Father Pfleger argued, “To me the much bigger problem is the anonymously sold guns on the streets that goes on every day.”


       Asked whether he might not forever regret the possibility that his adopted son’s killer could skate under his gun turn-in program, Pfleger said a stunning thing: “I would be very glad if he stopped using the gun.” Would murder be less offensive if it were hereafter committed by this thug with a knife or blunt object?


       Father Pfleger acknowledged that he is “very, very anti-gun.” Obviously. He’s told his parishioners, “If you’re not a law enforcement officer you should not have a gun in your house.”


       That the police are involved in this effort may be a good thing, maybe not. An officer is supposed to be present when the guns are turned in, but Father Pfleger said he takes in the guns and subsequently turns them over to an officer. Therein lies a bit of a legal problem that nobody seems eager to discuss.


       Illinois gun rights activists say this is illegal under state law because Father Pfleger does not have a Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card, nor is he a licensed firearms dealer. Under the law, they insist, he can’t legally take possession of a gun, not even for a little while. Other people get in trouble for doing the same thing.


       A call to the CAGE unit was no help. The man who answered would not give his name, became rude when asked about the gun turn-in project, and declined an offer to call me back at my office to confirm he was actually speaking to a reporter. When I asked to speak to his supervisor, his response was, “I am the supervisor.” He then hung up on me.


       Presumably, one should expect better manners from a Chicago police officer, but this is the same police department that could not uncover how a workplace killer named Salvador Tapia, who had a long criminal record, got his gun. Last year, after Tapia murdered six people at the Windy City Core Supply, an auto parts warehouse, Chicago officials began ranting for more gun control. The rhetoric stopped abruptly when it was discovered that the gun Tapia used had been previously owned by two now-deceased Chicago police officers, one of whom had bought it in 1994 from its only legal owner. Neither officer had  registered the pistol, as required by law.


       Father Pfleger’s philosophy will one day be judged by a “higher authority.” The road he’s chosen is well-traveled, and it is certainly paved with good intentions. We all know, however—as should Father Pfleger and his colleagues in the Clergy for Safer Streets—where roads paved with good intentions typically end.