Steve Chapman

Elected officials are given to pronouncements that would be politically fatal in most states. When asked by a reporter a couple of years ago if Chicago's handgun ban was actually effective in reducing crime, Mayor Richard Daley brandished a rifle with a mounted bayonet and replied, "If I put this up your butt, you'll find out how effective it is."

Democratic State Sen. Donne Trotter opposed a bill legalizing concealed-carry because it would mean "creating part-time police officers who have not gone through the extensive training, who have not had the psychological evaluations, who will be getting out there who feel now that they are stronger, they are badder, they are tougher because they have this nine-shooter on their hip."

That statement should not be interpreted to mean the senator is opposed to the idea in all circumstances. Last week, Trotter was arrested for allegedly trying to board a commercial airplane with a handgun in his carry-on bag.

The appeals court ruling provoked the usual gasps and grumps from local politicians. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office pronounced itself "disappointed." Democratic State Rep. Eddie Acevedo said parts of the city may resemble "the wild, wild West" -- as though they were islands of tranquility right now.

What other states have figured out is that forbidding citizens from carrying concealed weapons does not enhance public safety, because it doesn't prevent criminals from getting or packing guns. All it does is prevent scrupulously law-abiding individuals from using such weapons to protect themselves from attack. It punishes the victims, not the villains.

The same fears expressed by anti-gun alarmists here were expressed elsewhere, only to be proved groundless. A 2004 study by the National Academy of Sciences found "no credible evidence that 'right-to-carry' laws, which allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns, either decrease or increase violent crime."

When it comes to day-to-day life, in fact, the change will be no big deal. But for Illinois residents to finally have the freedom to make their own choices -- now, that is a big deal.

Steve Chapman

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

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