Social conservatives from rural communities like to say they are trying to protect their approach to life from outsiders, particularly urban types who they think show disdain for their beliefs.
Yet it often turns out to be just the opposite, as evidenced by the reaction of the activists who get worked up over firearms ownership issues. When the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the handgun ban that exists in the District of Columbia, the activists' first reaction was to say they were now going to go after the gun ordinances that exist in Chicago.
THE NATIONAL RIFLE Association says it considers the gun ordinances in Chicago and San Francisco to be just as onerous as what existed in the national capital. They are hoping that federal judges appointed by decades of Republican presidents will strike down the gun bans that exist in our city and others of likeminded views.
Insofar as Chicago is concerned, the City Council’s knee-jerk reaction to the assassination attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan was to ban the sale or ownership of handguns within city limits.
Basically, anybody who lives in the city of Chicago who has acquired a firearm since 1982 is in violation of the law. City residents who go to gun dealers in the inner suburbs to purchase firearms commit a crime when they bring the weapons home – similar to how Illinois residents can legally purchase fireworks in neighboring Indiana but cannot legally have or use them in their homes.
I can remember my days as a police reporter for the now-defunct City News Bureau when a police sergeant explained that an outright ban made it easier for police to control gun-related crime by eliminating various categories by which some firearms would be legal under some circumstances, but not others.
IT ELIMINATED LOOPHOLES by which people might try to claim their weapon is legal, while their neighbors’ is not.
As police explained it to me back then (and which they have a legitimate point), no one in an urban environment seriously is going hunting for sport. People who seriously see something “athletic” about firearms and competitive shooting are going to want more space than can be found in an urban environment.
The argument that legitimate sportsmen are having their rights impinged upon was absurd. Police in general, and the cops of Chicago in particular, are never going to be mistaken for some liberal-minded organization.
To me, the fact that legitimate law enforcement personnel are in support of these extreme firearms bans is the evidence that it is the people who oppose bans who are the radical fringe of our society – and not the norm, as the NRA would have us think.
I’M SORT OF willing to concede that in a rural community near open areas, the hunting aspect of firearms creates a different situation. While a part of me subscribes to the old joke that hunting will be a sport the day that deer are armed with an AK-47 and can shoot back at the hunters, I’m willing to admit that those rural communities might have some reason for having differing laws than the urban areas.
That is the case.
These are city-only ordinances that ban firearms sales, although select suburban towns in the Chicago area (most notably, Morton Grove, Ill.) have gone so far as to impose their own bans on firearm ownership within their boundaries.
That’s why the fact that the NRA and its allies are eager to shoot down Chicago’s gun ordinances strikes me as perverse. It’s almost like they want to impose a small-town, rural mentality that is completely inappropriate to the third-largest populated city in this country.
THEY DEFINITELY WANT to play politics with the issue of firearm ownership, hoping to score a few more rural votes by bashing around what they want to perceive as the “big bad wolf” of Chicago.
Why else would Republican presidential hopeful John McCain have bothered to bring up the issue on Thursday, praising the Supreme Court’s ruling and reminding people that his likely opponent, Barack Obama, hails from Chicago.
It’s probably just a matter of time before GOP aides remind us of ties between Obama and the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who has devoted years of his life as a priest to trying to fight the spread of firearms in his Gresham neighborhood parish and surrounding inner-city neighborhoods.
For his part, Mayor Richard M. Daley is bracing himself for a fight with the NRA, as he wants the courts to ultimately maintain the city’s gun sale ban. He is skeptical, as are many law enforcement personnel, that it is realistic to expect people to be able to protect themselves by allowing them to carry handguns on their person.
“DOES THIS LEAD to everyone having a gun in our society? If they think that’s the answer, then they’re greatly mistaken,” Daley told reporters. “Why don’t we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West? You have a gun and I have a gun and we’ll settle in the streets.”
Specifically of the Supreme Court’s action, Daley said, “They’re changing the rules. Why should we as a city not be able to protect ourselves from those who want guns in our society?”
Basically, Chicago is going to become a new legal battlefield for people who want to have the courts impose rules that somehow maintain a rural sensibility to this country – even though this country has long ceased to be urban-oriented (the typical American these days lives in a suburb of a major city).
THAT IS WHY towns like Kennesaw, Ga. – the town that reacted to Morton Grove’s gun ownership ban by imposing its own law requiring all households to own at least one firearm – are just ridiculous.
Kennesaw officials like to spew statistics claiming their crime rate has declined. When one considers how small the population is in that Southern town, it doesn’t take much of a drop to create a large percentage decline in crime.
It also would mean that differing circumstances exist there than in Chicago. Trying to move Chicago more in the direction of Kennesaw is just misguided.
EDITOR’S NOTES: The right-leaning Supreme Court’s elimination of the District of Columbia’s gun ordinances (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/06/23/ST2008062300649.html?hpid=topnews) are giving activists motivation to go after Chicago’s bans on handguns within city limits.
Chicago and San Francisco are getting ready to fight in court to keep their gun sales (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/27/washington/27React.html?_r=1&oref=slogin) restrictions in place.
Supporters of the handgun sales bans in Chicago want to believe that the now-invalid Washington, D.C. law (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jun/26/usa3) was so much stricter than what exists anywhere else that there will not be a large-scale legal effect by Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling.
The far right has been demonizing Rev. Michael Pfleger since before his comments about Hillary R. Clinton’s presidential campaign (http://newsbusters.org/blogs/scott-whitlock/2008/06/26/abcs-robin-roberts-ignores-radicalism-maverick-priest-pfleger), as he has long taken an active role in trying to fight the spread of firearms in the city from suburban gun dealers.