November 23, 2009

Following Gun Laws is for the Little People

As the case of McDonald v. Chicago gets set to be argued before the Supreme Court, Steve Chapman takes a look at gun laws in Chicago and finds they are only for the little people.
Chicago politicians are zealously committed to gun control in law, but fairly relaxed about it in practice.

In 1994, state Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, had an unregistered handgun stolen from his home in a burglary, and he didn't feign contrition about his disregard of the ordinance.

"I have a right to protect myself," he declared, noting that he had been burglarized before -- and forgetting that the state legislature of which he is a member allows Illinois cities to deprive their citizens of that right. Asked if he would replace the lost piece, Hendon said, "No comment." The police were kind enough not to charge him.

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, another Chicagoan, has endorsed a nationwide ban on handguns and, in 1993, organized Chicago's first Gun Turn-in Day. But the following year, while running unsuccessfully for governor, he admitted he owned a handgun -- "for protection," he explained -- and hadn't seen fit to turn it in along with those other firearms. Lesser mortals apparently can protect themselves with forks and spoons.

But why risk the chance of prosecution when you can just exempt yourself from the laws?
Under a state law dating back to 1872, mayors and aldermen are designated peace officers. And, conveniently, peace officers are permitted to not only own but carry handguns.

That makes aldermen a special class in Illinois, one of only two states with an almost complete ban on the carrying of concealed handguns. In most places, an adult with no criminal record or history of psychiatric commitment can get a concealed-carry license after taking a training class.

But here, we have a unique system. You want to be able to pack a weapon in public for your safety? Fine. All you have to do is 1) run for the City Council and 2) win.

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