Monday, July 27, 2009

Weekly Opinion/Editorial

I am writing this column while peering out a seventh story window from the Drake hotel in downtown Chicago. The Windy City, particularly the downtown area, is my favorite large city in America. There are great restaurants, plays, museums, Fisherman’s Wharf, and water taxis all within walking distance. But one thing you can’t do in Chicago is legally own a gun. In Chicago, a ban on the sale and registration of handguns has been in place since 1982. Only police officers, aldermen and a handful of others are exempt from the ban. While other firearms can be registered, under current law, handguns cannot be registered and are considered illegal. Several Chicago area suburbs have similar restrictions all in the name of reducing crime. But statistics prove disarming the citizen has not made the city safe.

According to the FBI, Chicago’s violent crime rate is two and one half times higher than the national average and fifty percent higher on crimes against property. Only nine percent of the cities in the US over 100,000 populations have higher crime rates than Chicago, so it is clear that creating gun free zones is not working.

No less than thirty-one states now have conceal and carry laws which allow individuals to carry concealed handguns if they do not have a criminal record or a history of significant mental illness. The high number of law-abiding citizens with permits, the lower the crime rate. In states with conceal and carry, statistics from the FBI show the murder rate declines by 3 percent, rape by 2 percent, and robberies by over 2 percent.

Last June, the Supreme Court ruled the ban on handguns in Washington DC was a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Within hours, the Illinois State Rifle Association filed suit to have the Chicago area handgun ban lifted. The district court in Chicago ruled against the ISRA, saying the second amendment,” does not extend to states and municipalities.” On June 8th of this year, a three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the initial ruling.

The US Court of Appeals for the Second District ruled in a similar way in January as the Seventh. One of the judges rendering that decision was current Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. This wasn’t her first attack on the second amendment. In 2004, Sotomayor, as a member of a three-judge Second Circuit panel, she issued a short summary order in U.S. vs. Sanchez-Villar, stating "the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right." In that simple statement, she revealed her intention to be an activist judge, which disqualifies her from being seated on the Supreme Court.

Now thirty three states have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and rule that the second amendment does apply to states. The lawsuit brief says, “The second amendment is a critical liberty interest, essential to preserving individual security and the right to self-defense.” "Yet federal courts of appeals are divided over whether this right fully extends to the vast majority of citizens who live not in a federal enclave, but in one of the several States. Without this Court’s review, millions of Americans may be deprived of their Second Amendment right.”

Oklahoma AG Drew Edmondson has joined in the effort, though most likely because he is running for Governor in 2010. Edmondson has not been a faithful, stanch advocate for states or gun rights. Edmondson’s judgment on when to join lawsuits in the past has been squirrelly at best (the Boy Scout suit), but whatever Drew’s motivation, it was the right thing to do.

If the Supreme Court chooses to hear the case, they could determine if the right to bear arms is a right that “must” be recognized by local and state governments. This end around attack by gun haters should concern all the citizens of the country, not just the gun owners. It is clearly an American’s constitutional right to own a gun and to defend themselves. To interpret the Constitution in less than a literal way will have repercussions on every “right” mentioned in the sacred document.

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was a big advocate of gun control. In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control and from 1929 to 1953 about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and killed. An armed population reduces violent crime for two reasons. First, criminals are uncertain which potential victims can defend themselves, so they often back out of committing the crime in the first place. And secondly, victims who have guns are in a much better position to defend themselves than with a flyswatter.

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