- - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Al Capone made Chicago famous as the headquarters of Crime Inc., and the tradition endures. Chicago is one of America’s most dangerous cities. More people were murdered in Chicago last year than in any other city in America, but the politicians still haven’t come to terms with reality. The only advice they have to the law-abiding who feel threatened is “Call 911.”

That wasn’t good enough for Mary Shepard, who lived downstate in the quiet village of Cobden, far from the violence of the Windy City. Or so she thought. Five years ago, she was working in the office of a church when a robber broke in to steal the collection plate. She was beaten to within an inch of her life and left for dead, all for a mere $300. She resolved never to let anything like that happen to her again. She recovered and obtained a state-issued firearms ownership permit, but soon realized it was effective only inside her home. Illinois law forbade all forms of “carry,” so she decided to fight City Hall — and the Statehouse. She won, and a year ago Illinois reluctantly got in step with the rest of the nation with recognition of the constitutional right to bear arms.

Fearful and timid politicians predicted a return to the Wild West. Everyone would wear a six-shooter on his hip, and barroom brawls would end at the coroner’s office. Hospitals would run out of room for the wounded.

The opposite has happened. Chicago’s homicide rate has fallen to a 56-year low. Burglary is down 20 percent, and theft of automobiles has been reduced by 26 percent. At the same time, 83,183 Illinois residents applied for concealed-carry applications, and 68,549 licenses have been issued. This proves once more that when the good guys get guns, the bad guys get scared.

In Mason County, 1 in 10 residents has a permit to pack a pistol, which turns the odds against the desperados and highwaymen. “Just the idea that the criminals don’t know who’s armed and who isn’t has a deterrence effect,” says Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. Garry McCarthy, Chicago’s top cop, patted himself on the back for a job well done, crediting better police training and “intelligent policing strategies” for the improvement. Was he saying that the year before he was using “dumb policing strategies?” Surely not.

Crime nationwide has fallen, so the availability of concealed-carry permits is probably just one factor in the improvement. But one fact is undeniable: There’s no downside to guns in the hands of honest folk. Since President Obama was elected in 2008, gun sales have soared and hoarding ammunition has become a national pastime. Second Amendment advocates apparently feared that the White House intended to seize their guns. Mr. Obama is trying to buck the trend. He has signed executive orders to ban the importation of M-1 Garand rifles and Russian-made surplus rifles and ammunition.

Mr. Obama apparently has visions of gang bangers doing drive-bys on the South Side of Chicago with rifles left over from Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Bulge. His “phone and pen” won’t make anyone safe, but Mrs. Shepard could tell him that a telephone call to 911 isn’t nearly as reassuring as the 9mm pistol she now carries.

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