Vice Squad
Thursday, January 29, 2004
A Quick Note On Handguns

This isn't quite vice-related, and I get a little worked up on this issue, so I'll try to keep this short.

For those of us who live in Chicago, we are all aware of a Wilmette man who recently shot a burglar in his home. He was not charged for the shooting, because the prosecutors ruled it was in self-defense. However, he was charged with violating the city's ban on handguns.

In what can only be described as a baffling piece of legislation, Representative John Bradley of Marion, Illinois has proposed a bill that would override local statutes banning handguns where the handgun was used in self-defense. I'm sure the city officials of Wilmette were well aware of the slim possibility that a handgun might be used for self-defense inside their city walls, and concluded that this possibility was outweighed by what they believe to be a serious danger in allowing members of their community to own deadly weapons.

The costs and benefits of allowing handgun ownership vary considerably between urban and rural communities. (Wilmette is about a 20 minute drive north of Chicago.) Why is a down-state representative even getting involved in this matter? Don't communities, and their local elected officials have the right to say what kind of weapons are or are not allowed on the streets where their children play?

The handgun ban has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that this guy used the gun in self-defense. The fact that he used it in self-defense prevented prosecutors from charging him with aggravated battery or attempted murder. The point of a handgun ban is to reduce the number of handguns in a community. By allowing a self-defense loophole for handgun ownership, the entire objective of the handgun ban is thwarted.

The Wilmette man keeps saying over and over again that he is a law abiding citizen (and Bradley seems to agree), despite the fact that his gun was unlicensed and unregistered at the time of the shooting. As Chris Boyster of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence stated, ''He was not a law-abiding citizen. He had a handgun, there was a handgun ban, he broke the law.''

What about the otherwise law-abiding citizen that occasionally uses a bit of marijuana at home, or decides to consume some cocaine a couple of times a year? These citizens aren't walking around with loaded weapons, but I doubt that Representative Bradley would consider them "law-abiding", nor would he likely fight for their right to engage in non-violent activities within their homes.

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