- Dec 26, 2007
Typical ante banter.
I am a retired federal law enforcement officer who worked on gun-trafficking cases. My 20-year-old brother, Michael, was killed in an armed robbery on the CTA in 1972 when he was coming home from Loyola University. I have known several friends who were shot or killed with guns. I strongly support Chicago's handgun ban.
Under Chicago's gun ordinance, about 15,000 guns are seized and then melted down each year from individuals who were illegally carrying them in their cars or on the street. Many were involved in gang activity, assaults or domestic disturbances. Chicago citizens and police are better off with these guns destroyed. If these handguns were left in circulation, some no doubt would have been turned against us. Unlike Chicago, Memphis police resell confiscated guns. We now know what became of two of these recycled guns: One was involved in the shooting at the Pentagon, and another in the shooting at the federal court house in Las Vegas.
Where do guns in Chicago originate? They come from outside Chicago, often from the suburbs and from states like Mississippi and Alabama where there is no gun control whatsoever. The lack of meaningful gun regulation nationwide is the real "gun control" problem, not the Chicago ordinance.
The lead plaintiff in the challenge to the Chicago ordinance in the U.S. Supreme Court admitted that a few years ago a shotgun was stolen in a burglary of his house. If he had handguns, they too would now be on the street and be used against us law-abiding citizens. Stolen guns are one of many reasons Chicago is trying to cut down on guns in the home. A gun in the home is not the only way -- or the wisest way -- to protect our family.
Of the 22,000 handgun deaths every year, most are suicides. The second category -- homicides -- are mostly committed by family members or friends in the course of an argument. Then there are the accidental deaths, some involving children finding guns "hidden" by their parents. Most gun misuse is not by "hardened criminals." Nationally handguns are used to kill criminals about 250 times per year. For every criminal killed in self-defense with a handgun, nearly 100 citizens die in suicides, homicides involving friends and family, and accidents.
The fundamental question our society has to answer: Are more guns the answer to all the gun violence -- or the crux of the problem? In 1968 we had about 40 million handguns. In 1985 we had about 60 million. Today we have around 70 million handguns. If more handguns were the solution, the USA would have the lowest rate of gun violence of all the industrialized countries. Instead, we have the highest. Regions of the USA with the highest gun ownership (the West and the South) for decades have had the highest suicide and homicide rates.
Handguns in the home or on the street pose risks to everyone, including the gun owners. Surely none of us would allow anyone to booby trap their house with land mines to protect it, or to have dynamite or a machine gun in their home to repel a home invasion. We try to psychoanalyze those who kill their fellow workers, family and strangers. But we fail to connect the dots of all these tragedies: "and they had a gun."
Just recently we had a second shooting at Northern Illinois University. In courses that I reach at Oakton Community College and Wright College, 40 percent of my students know someone who has been shot or killed with a gun. Every grammar school, high school and college now is at risk. Do we value our guns more than our kids?
Is our answer going to be more guns -- and not only more guns, but allowing people to carry them concealed on the street, into college dorms, at sporting events and at bars? That is exactly what the Republican candidate for governor wants. For the last 60 years, Democrat and Republican governors have all supported reasonable gun control in Illinois -- not more guns in public places.
Victims of gun violence call for change. They represent the silent majority: the 85 percent who in public opinion polls want reasonable gun-control measures.
-- Chester Kulis, of Norwood Park, an attorney, is a teaching adjunct in sociology and criminal justice at Oakton Community College.
Typical ante banter.