- - Monday, April 7, 2014

A 53-year-old man was confronted by two armed hoodlums outside his Chicago home in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

He might have become another name on the annual roll of hundreds of Chicago residents murdered every year. But he had a legal gun of his own, fought back and survived. He can thank one Otis McDonald.

By coincidence, Mr. McDonald, age 80, had died the day before, after having forced the city to recognize the American right to self-defense. Mr. McDonald lived in the Morgan Park neighborhood, where the landscape is littered with gangs, drug dealers and other residue of daily violence. A midnight stroll is not recommended. What goes on in Morgan Park is why Chicago is so dangerous to living things.

Hundreds of thousands of residents of Chicago, Washington, Baltimore and other cities are similarly deprived of their Second Amendment rights. Mr. McDonald’s home was broken into five times, and residents of the neighborhood were reluctant to call the police lest lawless gangs enforce retribution. Finally, Mr. McDonald had enough.

Mr. McDonald wanted to buy a pistol, but Chicago prohibited the sale and possession of handguns. He was no student of the Second Amendment, but he thought he had a right to protect himself and was prepared to fight for that right. He knew too that the Chicago ordinance and those like it were often the legacy of Civil War-era statutes to keep guns out of the hands of black Americans. That upset him, too.

The soft-spoken Mr. McDonald told The Chicago Tribune that he was helping to correct “a wrong … that dates back to slavery time … . I could feel the spirit of those people running through me as I sat in the Supreme Court,” he told The Tribune.

Otis McDonald won his lawsuit. In McDonald v. Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Chicago gun laws in 2010 and extended the guarantees of the Second Amendment to all the states.

Mr. McDonald was born during the Depression in the segregated South to a family of Louisiana sharecroppers. He left school at 14. After serving in the Army, like many Southern blacks of his generation, he moved north. He spent years working at odd jobs, finally getting a job as a janitor. He worked hard, saved his money, became head of his union local, married, bought a house, raised eight children, went back to school and earned an associate’s degree. He retired in 1996 after a lifetime of honest work and watched as the neighborhood grew more and more dangerous.

Most of the residents of Chicago who will benefit from the restoration of their right to self-defense will never get to know much about Mr. McDonald, who bravely stood up for them. Two Chicago thugs learned over the weekend that good citizens, like Otis McDonald, are standing up for themselves. We salute him.

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