Steve Chapman

After the Supreme Court ruled that cities and states must respect the right of individuals to own handguns for self-defense, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley declared the justices to be divorced from reality. "They don't seem to appreciate the full scope of gun violence in America," he charged.

Daley is right. They couldn't possibly comprehend it as well as he does. Nor could the 80-year-old West Sider who awoke one recent morning to find an armed man breaking into his home -- and killed him, with a firearm prohibited by the Chicago handgun ban. Not long after, another intruder was shot by a homeowner wielding a revolver.

But really: Whose judgment about the value of guns to law-abiding citizens do you trust? Ordinary people defending their homes against criminals? Or a public official who is shepherded to work each day by police officers?

The Supreme Court sided with Chicagoans who prefer not to be defenseless. Under the Second Amendment, it concluded, they have a right to act on the belief that "their safety and the safety of other law-abiding members of the community would be enhanced by the possession of handguns in the home."

The reality that goes unpublicized by the mayor is that the weekend before the Supreme Court decision, at least 26 people in Chicago were shot, three fatally. The previous weekend, the victims numbered more than 50, with at least eight dying. Daley downplays the obvious fact that his ban hasn't spared the city from "the full scope of gun violence in America."

After spending two years fighting a legal battle that was clearly futile from the start, he didn't take the defeat graciously. He resentfully acknowledged his obligation to abide by the Second Amendment while pledging new shackles for those unwilling to depend entirely on 911 for home security.

The mayor is expected to demand registration of all handguns, mandatory training for gun owners and a limit of one handgun per person. This last novel idea comes from Corporation Counsel Mara Georges, who according to the Associated Press "says the court ruled people can have a gun for protection, but didn't say they're allowed more than one."

Of course the First Amendment could be read to mean Rupert Murdoch is entitled to publish only one newspaper, not two. The Supreme Court, however, would not take such a cramped view of press freedom, and it may not put up with such gambits when it comes to gun rights, either.

But no one can be sure what latitude the justices will grant to mayors and governors who see no redeeming value in guns. Restrictions like these might pass muster -- which raises the awkward question of whether they will do any more good than a garden hose in a forest fire.

Steve Chapman

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

©Creators Syndicate