Steve Chapman

Scott was shot in the abdomen while chasing a burglar in 1988, so it's understandable that he would appreciate the value of having the means to defend himself against criminals. But that understanding didn't extend to the needs of ordinary Chicagoans. When the city gun ban was challenged in court, the board of education that he headed filed a brief defending Chicago's right "to prohibit classes of arms in order to prevent crime and protect public safety."

A law banning handguns, in Scott's view, was necessary to protect public safety. But when it came to protecting his private safety, he somehow perceived the law to be a hindrance, not a help.

Does his attitude carry the distinct tang of hypocrisy? Yes, but that's not out of the ordinary for Chicago politicians. 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.

Why the state assumes that aldermen are fit for this prerogative is a mystery. "Law-abiding" is not the very first word that comes to mind when you think of the city council. Since 1972, 27 of its members have been convicted on charges involving malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance, disfeasance and anti-feasance with mopery aforethought.

It would be hard to come up with a group of people that has proven itself less deserving of blanket trust. The most recent convict, Arenda Troutman, got four years in prison for bribery after being caught on tape attesting that "most aldermen, most politicians are ho's." At a 1991 neighborhood meeting that got rowdy, Ald. Dorothy Tillman reportedly pulled out her handgun and waved it pugnaciously.

In Chicago, only criminals and aldermen are armed. Forgive me for being redundant.

Steve Chapman

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

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