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OPINION

Chicago’s “Godfather” Goes after Guns

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Chicago is known for good steaks, expensive stores and beautiful architecture. Unfortunately, the Windy City also enjoys a reputation for corrupt politics, violent crime, and some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere in the country. To rational people, the inverse relationship between the last two is obvious. Unfortunately for residents of and visitors to Chicago, the city is governed by officials who operate not in the real world, but in a virtual “Bizarro World,” where up is down, black is white, and good guys are to be punished.

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In this strange environment, current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (who served presidents Clinton and Obama as a trusted advisor) believes the best way to enable citizens to protect themselves from rampant gun violence, is to take away their ability to defend themselves – in other words, disarm law-abiding citizen-victims.

Predictably, under the “Godfather” (as Emanuel is often tabbed by the media) Chicago has descended to historically high levels of violence; turning areas of the city into virtual war zones for residents and visitors alike.

The murder rate in Chicago -- 500 homicides just last year -- easily exceeded the death toll in 2012 for US personnel serving in the war zone of Afghanistan. Even that war’s bloodiest year, in which 499 American military lost their lives, could not match Chicago’s recent, depressingly high murder count.

Rather than consider last month’s mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut a lesson in what happens when an unarmed populace is confronted with a deranged, gun-wielding criminal, Emanuel – who famously once said, “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste” —used the tragedy to renew his calls for even more limits on law-abiding citizens’ ability to defend themselves.

Hizzoner began by begging the Illinois General Assembly to move swiftly to ban all so-called “assault weapons.” Speaking at a recent graduation ceremony for Chicago Police Officers Emanuel opined, “it is time to have that vote” in Springfield and in Washington, DC. Democrat lawmakers in Springfield quickly fell in line. As reported by the NRA, legislation proposed last week would impose “sweeping semi-automatic and magazine bans,” in addition to “requiring registration of firearms and magazines, and crippling shooting ranges through onerous restrictions.”

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Fortunately, for Chicago’s beleaguered citizens, Democrats failed to muster the votes in either the state House or Senate, and the Emanuel-supported legislation died -- for now.

The better news out of Illinois, however, is that the federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently issued an opinion authored by well-known judge Richard Posner, striking down as unconstitutional the state’s draconian ban on private carry of firearms.

Posner’s well-researched, logic-based Seventh Circuit opinion noted that, “[a] blanket prohibition on carrying [a] gun in public prevents a person from defending himself anywhere except inside his home.” The jurist went on to scold the Illinois legislature for preventing citizens from being able to defend themselves on the mean streets of cities like Chicago, in the absence of an overriding justification which he concluded clearly was not present as a basis for the existing ban.

Preventing law-abiding citizens from possessing firearms to protect themselves from criminals as roam the streets of Chicago may satisfy a political agenda such as Emanuel’s. In reality, however, such measures draw attention away from the real causes of violent criminal activity; at the same time blunting the process of finding solutions to those problems -- gang activity, drug usage, mental health issues, and culture-fueled violence.

As Posner aptly stated, laws are not meant to be psychological safety blankets for politicians. If government is to limit a constitutionally-protected right in the name of public safety, overriding empirical -- not hypothetical -- evidence must be shown to justify that loss of liberty. Chicago’s violent crime speaks volumes to the ineffectiveness of gun control. As such, gun legislation that reduces the right to keep and bear arms is nothing more than a red herring.

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At best, overzealous gun control adds unnecessary burdens to purchasing and owning firearms for law-abiding citizens. At its worst, as we see clearly in Chicago, gun control reduces law-abiding citizens to cold crime statistics. Hopefully Posner’s decision, which he stayed for 180 days, will stand and override the shibboleth of gun control that is the Holy Grail of liberal politicians from Chicago to New York and from Washington, DC to San Francisco.

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