Chicago v. Self Defense

Chicago v. Self Defense

By Jeremy Lott - June 2, 2010

Talk about your inconvenient truth. Five days after Chicago Mayor Richard Daley had held a press conference touting the benefits of the city's handgun ban by brandishing a rifle with a bayonet and -- I swear I am not making this up -- cracking a joke about shoving it up a reporter's bum, an 80-year-old man on the West Side of Chicago traded gunfire with a burglar, killing the intruder.

For advocates of gun control, the optics on this story are just awful. It's nearly impossible to drum up any sympathy for the deceased, Anthony Nelson, who had a long history of drug and weapons convictions and was on probation. He attempted to break into the house, brought a gun with him, and fired twice at the so-far unnamed homeowner.

Conversely, it is impossible to fault the homeowner. The man who killed Nelson was a veteran of the Korean War. He fired only one shot and got the intruder in the chest. On that morning, the man was protecting not just himself but his wife and a 12-year-old great grandson who was staying over. A son told reporters "My father had no choice. It was him or the other guy."

Things only get worse. The old man moves slowly, with the aid of a cane. He reportedly acquired the illicit gun only after a previous incident, when the couple were robbed at gunpoint in their home by three intruders. Lastly, an ironic political detail, courtesy of the Sun-Times: "When he returned home, the man...wore a T-shirt emblazoned with President Obama's face and name." Talk about audacity.

Chicago police told the press that they're still investigating. So far the self-defense story checks out, and they've declined to press charges. Mayor Daley tried to avoid the implications of the story in a Friday press conference but he couldn't help himself. Asked if the man would be charged with violating the city's handgun ban, Daley said, "I don't know. Thank you very much." Pressed further, Daley defended the city's constitutionally suspect handgun ban, saying "guns is not the answer to the problems that we see in a home, in the streets of America. It's as simple as that."

Forget for a moment that a loaded gun in the hands of an otherwise law abiding citizen was precisely "the answer" in this case. Voters are entitled to wonder why the Mayor takes such a simplistic, obstinate view of the issue. Chicago has decided to buck the national trend, prompted by the Supreme Court's Heller decision in favor of more permissive gun ownership rules.

What's more, the High Court will likely hand Daley another defeat in the near future by voting to "incorporate" Americans' Second Amendment rights. That decision would give citizens in all 50 states the right to take gun bans to court if local governments won't at least scale them back to allow gun ownership in people's homes. The case that would set this in motion is appropriately titled McDonald v. Chicago. The city's stubborn mayor may not like the proliferation of guns in private hands, but it may not be up to him for much longer.

Jeremy Lott is an editor for RealClearPolitics and author of The Warm Bucket Brigade: The Story of the American Vice Presidency.

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