Gun ruling heats up in Chicago

CHICAGO – Every day 82 people die to gun violence throughout the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control. Chicago Public School officials say 27 students have died by gunfire since September 2007. One weekend here left nine people dead in 36 shootings and the week after that five people were found shot to death inside a pillaged South Side home. The murder rate in Chicago has risen 13 percent this year and about 68 percent of all murders in 2006 were committed with a firearm, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Chicago Police Department statistics show that from 2004 to November 2007 there were 43,685 firearms-related crimes in Chicago. It appears this constant mayhem continues to be caused by America’s leading weapon of choice, guns.

Yet, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 June 27, that the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual’s right to own guns for personal self-defense and not merely as part of a state militia. The landmark ruling lifts the District of Columbia’s 32-year-old ban on handguns.

Meanwhile the National Rifle Association in San Francisco, Chicago and several Chicago suburbs has filed similar lawsuits. The Chicago Weapons Ordinance was enacted in 1982. At a recent press conference Mayor Richard M. Daley called the ruling “frightening” and said he is prepared to fight the gun lobby, which has long criticized the city’s ban on the sale and registration of handguns for everyone but police officers and a handful of others. “If they think that’s the answer, then they’re greatly mistaken,” said Daley. “Then why don’t we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West? You have a gun and I have a gun and we’ll settle it in the streets,” he said.

Jennifer Bishop is the national program director for victims and survivors of the Brady Campaign. She is also a gun violence survivor. Her sister who was four months pregnant and her husband were held hostage in their Winnetka, Ill. home. They were handcuffed, taken to the basement and tragically shot to death in 1990. The gunman was armed with a 357 magnum. He was sixteen and according to Bishop, he just wanted to know what it felt like to shoot and kill someone.

About the ruling Bishop said, “Of course this is what happens when you have right-wing judicial activism at its worst and it’s sad for our constitution and for our country.” Clearly the 2nd Amendment is about militias during a specific time period, she pointed out. On the other hand Bishop said the Brady Campaign welcomes the ruling because it confirms that it is fully constitutional to regulate guns, especially when it comes to background checks, the illegal trafficking of guns and the banning of military firepower to the public.

“We never supported hand gun bans but the new ruling says that regulating guns is fully constitutional,” said Bishop. “I think Chicago will be able to make a vigorous defense and successfully defend its state and local laws on guns,” added Bishop. “The news overall is very, very good when it comes to our campaign especially when it comes to protecting laws that require licensing, registration and general regulation of guns,” she said.

The NRA can’t be happy because the 2nd Amendment is not infringed when it comes to the regulation of guns, said Bishop. “Now we can get down to business and pass common sense laws that will prevent gun violence and save lives,” she said. But for Tio Hardiman, director of the gang mediation and community organizing wing of Chicago CeaseFire, a grassroots violence prevention group, the ruling could have a profound affect on low-income urban communities of color.

Hardiman believes the country’s leaders are saying it’s okay for everyone to have guns. Most of the youth Hardiman works with come from dysfunctional households with broken families and live in neighborhoods infested with gangs and suffering from poverty, police abuse and underemployment.

“We need to change the thinking about the epidemic of violence.” he said. “Youth on the streets are going to think it’s legal now to carry a gun,” added Hardiman. The gun control problem is important but what is also important is electing leaders that will stand up for young people’s rights to jobs, educational opportunities and a clean and safe environment, said Hardiman.

“What our young people really need are leaders to provide healthy alternatives like a good paying job, college tours, job fairs and trainings, and open gyms for sports and recreation programs,” said Hardiman.