Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Opinion: City And Country Will Never Agree On Guns

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    NEWSLETTERS

    This weekend, I was debating gun control with an acquaintance who lives way out in the western suburbs somewhere. He’s a former cop, a former military man, and a strong advocate of the Second Amendment. Needless to say, he thinks there’s nothing wrong with our gun laws. He even thinks James Holmes should have been allowed to buy the assault weapon with which he who killed 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

    When the subject of murders in Chicago came up, he didn’t think guns were to blame for that, either. It’s “the culture” he said. Liberal welfare programs have destroyed all sense of personal responsibility in the inner city. Why should he have to give up his Second Amendment rights because people in Chicago are misusing their guns?

    Most gun rights advocates live in the suburbs or the country, so it’s not surprising they would refuse to acknowledge the role of easily available firearms in urban violence. But this month, the Illinois State Rifle Association took that attitude a step further by gloating over Chicago’s spike in murders. The gun lobbying organization thinks the crime in Chicago proves Illinois needs a conceal carry law. ISRA Executive Director Richard Pearson sent out a news release advising his members to vacation in Wisconsin rather than Chicago.

    First off, criminals are fully aware that Illinois’ prohibition on concealed carry gives them the upper hand. Second, Mayor Emanuel and Police Superintendent McCarthy are in a hopeless state of paralysis over what to do about violent crime. This is a recipe for disaster. Criminals know you can’t legally protect yourself, and they know that Chicago law-enforcement officials haven't a clue about what to do to protect good citizens from harm. Criminals are taking advantage of a bad situation – and doing a good job at it.
    In clear conscience I cannot recommend that anyone vacation in Chicago this summer. Tourists are like sitting ducks and mobs of violent criminals have shown that they are brazen enough to attack anywhere, any time – even along the Magnificent Mile. I suggest that folks consider Wisconsin as a vacation destination this year. Fresh air, sunshine, friendly people – all waiting just a short drive across the border. And, although Illinois residents cannot take advantage of Wisconsin’s newly-attained concealed carry status, the general air of civility fostered by concealed carry is certainly another reason to vacation with our neighbors to the north!

    (Yes, ever since Wisconsin passed a conceal carry law last year, Wisconsinites have become nicer, because they’re afraid someone will shoot them over a surly remark. But as Pearson points out, they can still call us FIBs and FISHTABs, because out-of-state residents can’t carry concealed weapons.)

    Mr. Pearson, Chicago’s murders prove the futility of conceal carry laws, because most of the violence is taking place between armed populations. Gang members know their rivals have guns, but they also know that if they get the drop on their victims, they can get away with murder. In January, two people were shot to death in an SUV a block from where I live. They wouldn’t be alive if they had guns. (For all I know, they did, since they were gangbangers.) But they would be alive if their assailants hadn’t had guns. Drive-by knifings are not effective.

    On Sunday’s Meet the Press, former New York City police chief Bill Bratton responded to Texas congressman Louis Gohmert’s assertion that an armed moviegoer could have stopped Holmes’s attack. Bratton pointed out that if Holmes’s assault rifle hadn’t jammed, even the police would have been outgunned.

    “The congressman…made the comment about if people in the theater had been armed they may have been able to stop this individual,” Bratton said. “He was armed to the teeth with all types of bullet protection materials. The ability of a citizen to try and take that individual down equipped the way he was would have been de minimus.”

    Guns are an issue on which city people and country people will never agree. In the city, guns mean murder. In the country, guns mean sport, hunting and protection for homes far away from the nearest police officer. One thing we can agree on is that the country is winning the debate.  

    Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!