Two weeks after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the Leaders Network, a faith-based social justice group based on the West Side, hosted the MLK Peace Basketball Tournament. 

The Feb. 24 event, held at Christ The King Jesuit College Prep, 5088 West Jackson Blvd. in Austin, featured roughly 60 participants, ages 18 to 30, and was held to highlight anti-violence during Black History Month. 

The event held particular significant given the recent national debate about gun reform. 

“Rifles, AK-47’s and machine guns should not be in the hands of ordinary citizens,” said Rev. Ira Acree, the pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin and a co-chairman of the Leaders Network. 

“Nobody needs an assault weapon unless you’re in the military,” he said. “Too bad President Trump doesn’t have the courage to fix this travesty instead he suggests school teachers being armed with guns as a resolution for the violence.” 

Rev. Dr. Marshall Hatch, the pastor of New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Garfield Park and a co-chairman of the Leaders Network, echoed Acree’s sentiment. 

“Civilians have no need for assault weapons,” Hatch said, “not in Chicago or Parkland, Fla. Our Peace Tournament this year joins the call to action led by our nation’s youth.” 

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