The most important job of the government is the protection of its people. That protection involves their physical safety and the security of their property. It means providing police presence to deter criminals before they commit crimes and harsh penalties for offenders whose crimes were not deterred. The fact is that most crimes cannot be deterred because the bad guys don't generally mug people in front of the officer on patrol. Since the police can't be everywhere, people need a way to protect themselves.
That was how Otis McDonald felt when he walked into a Chicago police station and applied for a .22-caliber pistol two years ago. The 76-year-old retired maintenance engineer became the public face of one of the most important Second Amendment cases in U.S. history. As the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging Chicago's 28-year handgun ban, McDonald was a sympathetic figure: an elderly man trying to protect himself from violent hoodlums preying upon his neighborhood.
One would think that granting McDonald the right to protect himself would be a no-brainer. After all, it's common knowledge that many street gangs are equipped with enough firearms to take on the Taliban. Our feckless justice system has been proven inadequate to disarm the thugs that roam freely throughout the country. Therefore, why not allow the potential victims of those thugs to at least have a fighting chance? How insane is it to tell people that they are prohibited from being armed during a continuous war on crime, especially when they live in crime-ridden areas like Chicago?
Thankfully, the Supreme Court behaved sanely when they recently ruled that the Second Amendment to the Constitution gives an individual the right to keep and bear arms. Nevertheless, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, presiding over his personal thugocracy, declared that the Supremes are divorced from reality. "They don't seem to appreciate the full scope of gun violence in America," said the man who doesn't set foot outside his office without a police escort.
In a bizarre sort of irony, the weekend before the Supreme Court decision, 26 people in Chicago were shot, and three died from their wounds. Furthermore, the previous weekend, there were more than fifty victims, and at least eight of them went to their final resting place. Does anyone think the shooters gave a hoot about gun control laws? Evidently, Daley overlooks those victims during his rhetoric about the full scope of violence in America.
We'll never know if some of those lives would have been spared had the victims been armed. But one thing seems obvious: If the guys with illegal guns knew that the rest of the population was unarmed, they could kick down any door and have their way with the residents. The only thing stopping them now is the knowledge that many people have guns and are willing to use and capable of using them to protect their families. We've all heard tape recordings of people who dialed 911 as someone was breaking into their home only to be told that the police may be several minutes away. In cases where the caller was armed, shots could be heard as the intruder gained entry and tried to attack the caller.
In Mayor Daley's world, by the time the cops arrive, the caller will likely be DOA. Instead, we have often heard a scenario in which a law-abiding citizen, unable to wait for assistance any longer, took action against an intruder and lived to talk about it. One of the scariest scenes I can imagine is one in which I'm awakened in the middle of the night by strange sounds coming from another room of the house and I have no weapons to protect my family.
It should be axiomatic that when the government can't protect you, but they don't allow you to protect yourself, it's time to eschew the rules and rely on common sense. During my twenty years as a cop, I took a lot of guns off the bad guys, none of which were registered. How could they be? Bad guys aren't allowed to have registered guns! Only good guys have that right. Hence, when you make gun possession illegal for the good guys, the bad guys will be the only ones with guns.
We all owe Mr. McDonald our gratitude because his courage in taking on Chicago's gun ban has resulted in a ruling that reinforces what the champions of liberty meant when they wrote about not infringing on the people's right to bear arms. We're also indebted to five of the nine justices, who decided that the Second Amendment is the law of the land, superseding local gun control laws. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito made it clear that "self-defense is a basic right ... individual self-defense is 'the central component' of the Second Amendment." Can I have an "amen"? Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. E-mail Bob.