Congressional black caucus honors gun-control advocate
Milwaukee woman got active when son, two friends were killed
By LEONARD SYKES JR.
Posted: Sept. 29, 2005
Debra Lee Fifer may not have come any closer to obtaining passage of the responsible gun ownership bill, a measure pending in the state Legislature following her son's tragic death in 2003, but she now has national exposure for the bill.
Debra Fifer, whose son, Kirk Bickham Jr., and two friends were shot and killed in 2003, wants a state law regulating gun ownership.
11/11/04: Honoring son, mother pushes change
6/2/04: Finding help when tragedy strikes
4/26/04: Man gets 3 life terms in triple slaying
Fifer was one of nine women from across the nation to receive the Congressional Black Caucus Unsung Hero Award, an honor given annually by the organization's spouses to honor individuals who work to improve their communities.
The award was presented last week at the group's annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C. Fifer was recognized for her work to prevent gun violence in Milwaukee.
But while the award may not convince lawmakers in Madison of the importance of passing the measure, Fifer and U.S. Rep. Gwendolynne Moore (D-Wis.) are both pleased that the Sept. 21 event in Washington gave Fifer a chance to get national exposure for her cause. A hearing on the bill is still pending in Madison.
"It speaks volumes to get any kind of recognition from Congress," said Moore, who nominated Fifer for the award. "There were only nine people from our 43 districts who received this award. . . . Whether this gets her anywhere or not (with the bill), I don't know. But for me, it was important that her work received notice on a federal level.
Fifer has been instrumental in lobbying for the responsible gun ownership bill in the state Assembly and Senate.
In 2003, her son Kirk Bickham Jr. and two of his friends, Deshawn Winbush and Carl Hall, were shot and killed by a felon outside Elvin's Ice House, 3624 N. Port Washington Ave.
Fifer said the gun that killed them was legally purchased in what she called the "gray market," sold by the original buyer with no record of the transaction.
Under a bill initially sponsored in the Legislature by two Milwaukee Democrats, state Sen. Spencer Coggs and former state Rep. Johnnie Tatum, both sellers and buyers of guns in private transactions would be required to report the sale to the state Department of Justice, and criminal background checks would be required.
It would also require all gun owners to report their names and addresses, as well as the model, make and serial number of the gun.
Both the Milwaukee Common Council and the Milwaukee County Board have approved resolutions supporting the measure, which is also backed by the organization that Fifer founded, Mothers Against Gun Violence.
Coggs sent a letter Sept. 15 to state Sen. David Zein (R-Eau Claire) requesting a hearing. Zein chairs the committee that will determine whether the bill will be heard.
Fifer said she was caught totally off guard by the Unsung Hero Award because she had been so focused on lobbying senators for the hearing.
But she said she was honored by the award. "I thought I had just been nominated," she said. "It was just mind-blowing when Gwen told me I had actually won the award.
"I just thought I was doing the right thing in reference to addressing an issue that I felt had contributed to my son's death."
She isn't so sure about the impact of the award but said it's going to encourage her to keep pushing for the bill.
"I don't know what happens from here, but I give a lot of credit to God, and he's been opening doors. Will this award make a difference? It sure gave me a lot of great contact."
Clearly, a felon will think twice before buying a gun at Wally World & killing folks with it. (sarcasm)
Hmmm. I'd give her one of these instead.
The "gray market" she refers to is simply face to face private sales. What she wants is for all sales, private or otherwise, to be reported to the govt, and to enforce this, require registration of all owners and their guns.
They can put this in any other terms they want, but it is still universal registraion.