Steve Chapman

Since the Supreme Court upheld the individual right to own guns last summer, one municipality after another with handgun bans has faced reality. Washington, D.C., which lost the case, changed its law. Morton Grove, Ill., repealed its ban. So did neighboring Wilmette. Likewise for Evanston. Last week, Winnetka followed suit.

Then there is Chicago, which is being sued for violating the Second Amendment but refuses to confront the possibility that what the Supreme Court said may apply on this side of the Appalachians.

When it comes to firearms, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is no slave to rationality. "Does this lead to everyone having a gun in our society?" he demanded after the ruling came down. "Then why don't we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West, where you have a gun and I have a gun and we'll settle it in the streets?"

From listening to him, you might assume that the only places in North America that don't have firefights on a daily basis are cities that outlaw handguns. You might also assume that Chicago is an oasis of concord, rather than the site of 443 homicides last year.

So it's no surprise that Daley refuses to make the slightest change in the handgun ordinance, preferring to fight the lawsuits filed by the National Rifle Association. He is not impressed that 1) the law almost certainly violates the Constitution, which elected officials are supposed to uphold, and 2) it will cost taxpayers a lot of money to fight lawsuits the city is bound to lose.

The Chicago ban dates back to 1983 -- a time when no one had to worry about the forgotten Second Amendment. The ordinance prohibited the possession of all handguns (except those acquired before the law took effect).

It had no obvious benefits: Homicides climbed in the ensuing years and by 1992 were 41 percent higher than before. But the policy rested undisturbed until last summer, when the Supreme Court ruled that Washington's complete ban on handguns violated the individual right to use arms for self-defense in the home.

If that logic applies to the D.C. statute, it very likely applies to Chicago's law. The city, however, notes that the nation's capital is a federal enclave, and that the court did not say that states must respect the Second Amendment. That's true. The court's ruling also did not say that China is in Asia, which doesn't make it part of South America.


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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