Supreme Court Son of a Guns (July 1, 2010)

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I am both pro-Bill of Rights, and anti-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. While the latter has done much to beautify and invest in the City’s downtown/lakefront infrastructure, his tenure, at 21 years and counting, has gone on way too long, and is one of the best arguments for term limits I have ever encountered. While Daley Jr. has ushered in the reversal of a decades-long pattern of affluent urban flight, he has presided over the all-but-crushing of the City’s poor who no longer find transportation, housing, City fees, parking, gas and a whole host of other necessities within their reach.

Having been born and raised in the Windy City, I can clearly remember a time when middle class families (my father a clerical worker, my mother a nurse) could buy a single family home on the Northwest Side, and make plans to get ahead. This is a distant dream for that same class in 2010. The cause of this can be traced to one very complicated factor: systemic corruption, waste and incompetency at the highest levels of the Daley machine.

Yet that said, and despite my rampant distaste for the Mayor, we find ourselves on the same side of a very important issue: gun control. As you may be aware by now, the Supreme Court on Monday cleared a path to overturn the City’s ban on handguns — among the toughest in the U.S – by remanding an earlier Federal Court decision to uphold the law back to its source for reconsideration.

As I mentioned in the first sentence, I am a big fan of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that acts as the centerpiece to protecting our civil liberties. I understand that one of those rights, whether I choose to exercise it or not, is the right to bear arms, protecting my person and my property. Whether I feel that this right is as necessary in 2010 as it may have been in the late 18th century is another argument for another time. I accept that the Bill of Rights is for eternity, and that is as it should be.

However, I can’t help but find myself in agreement with Chicago Alderwoman Freddrenna Lyle, who was quoted as saying, “If the City can pass a dog ordinance that can protect the public from a dog bite, we should be able to tighten handgun regulations.” Well said, Ms. Alderwoman. Dogs are not illegal, but as they can be somewhat unwieldy under the wrong circumstances, they must be regulated: leashes, licenses etc. Why is the same not applicable to potentially lethal weapons?

Word on the street is that Mayor Daley, an outspoken critic of gun access, reacted “angrily” to the Supreme Court decision, motivated by reasons for once loftier than simply having his unchecked authority questioned. Our Mayor is not a well-spoken or gracefully mannered man. I would have given a year of my life to be a fly on the wall for the initial outburst.

But I digress. Chicago, need I tell you folks, is a violent City, and growing more so all the time. Rampant gang activity and a debilitating economy breed a sense of despair and hopelessness which quickly morphs into lawlessness. In 2009, the Windy City’s murder rate was approximately three times higher than that of New York City. That is a very telling statistic in a calendar year in which lakefront citizens were unable to buy handguns. This of course begs the question: once these weapons are available on the open market, what then?

State and local governments already squeezed budgetarily do not have the resources to step up the pursuit of violent criminals. Are we naïve enough to believe that predatory crime syndicates are not ten steps ahead of the rest of us, preparing to use this development to advantage?

So what is the answer? I don’t have it, and clearly, neither does Mayor Daley, and the Supreme Court justices deliberately chose to be hands off. Their job is to locate legislation that doesn’t jibe with the Constitution and undo it. Fine. Understood. Be that as it may, we are all, at the end of the day, responsible to a degree for each other. That is another foundation of the loose confederation of these States.

Children playing in the streets of Chicago are already being killed at an alarming rate. How do we explain to them that grown-ups have the right to own any kind of gun they like, even ones that have no use for other than killing, and they just may have to get used to the occasional death of a friend?

Seems Un-American. The Bill of Rights offers some implicit right to safety, does it not? By protecting our rights to speech, arms, and against unreasonable search and seizure – these fall under the umbrella of security. The Supreme Court’s black and white interpretation of Chicago’s ban against handguns makes all of us in the Windy City less safe.

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