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.
After all, the almost total prohibition passed back in 1982 didn't have the effects promised by supporters. It failed to eradicate handguns, of which the city has an estimated 100,000. Nor did the ban establish serenity in the streets. In the decade after it took effect, homicides soared.
If a ban proved irrelevant, how potent would less ambitious measures be? A registration requirement sounds innocuous but also pointless. To start with, it will be widely ignored. When Canada mandated one in 1995, there were an estimated 15 million guns in private hands. But apparently most evaporated, since fewer than 7 million are registered today.
Daley insists police and firefighters must know if a home harbors handguns before they arrive on a call -- forgetting that emergency personnel manage without that information in the rest of America. But Illinois already requires licensing of gun owners, so first responders could find out if one resides at a specific address.
Registration would be of limited value, because the most dangerous gun owners are those who don't volunteer for government paperwork and fees. Just because a home doesn't have a gun registered doesn't mean a cop can skip the flak jacket.
Safety training? The obligation would be brilliantly targeted to affect only people who don't need it. One gun per person? A single sidearm is enough for an enterprising thug. But give Taylor Swift a dozen, and she could probably go for months without shooting anyone.
For those afraid of being victimized by ex-cons, a new handgun ordinance won't be much comfort. But if it's Taylor Swift who scares you, you're in luck.
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