City: Illegal guns lead to police shootings

June 25, 2008 3:59:34 PM PDT
As the city blames illegal guns for the uptake in police-shootings, the Supreme Court considers whether a gun ban similar to Chicago's is legal. Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Chicago Police Department said the recent surge of police-involved shootings is a result of guns on the streets. Eight suspects have been injured- some fatally- in the nine police-involved shootings in the past two weeks.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether or not a gun ban in Washington D.C. is constitutional. Chicago has the same type of gun ban, which Mayor Daley said is necessary to fight violence on the city's streets, where guns are part of life in some neighborhoods.

"You see around here you have to do that around here sometimes," said Elsie Gonzales, whose nephew, Luis Colon, was killed by police on Tuesday.

Colon, 18, was shot to death by a police officer in the 2700-block of North Kilbourn. His family and friends said he was known to carry a loaded gun in his Belmont Gardens neighborhood.

"They told him to put the gun down, put the gun down. There's a lot of witnesses. Why, why did they still shoot and kill him," said Maria Colon, victim's mother.

According to officials, all eight people who have been shot by Chicago officers were armed with illegal handguns.

Last week, Melvin Barlow, 27, was critically wounded by police at Linden Playground in the city's Humboldt Park neighborhood. Charlisa Bryant said she knew Barlow and saw the shooting.

"The police just came up and grabbed at the gate and started shooting," said Bryant. "That's probably why he ran. He probably had a gun on him? The cops didn't know he had no gun."

Civilian possession of all handguns and rifles is illegal in Chicago; only simple shotguns are allowed for home protection. At a news conference Tuesday, a frustrated Mayor Daley conceded that the nation's appetite for firearms has overwhelmed the city's gun control effort.

"It is an epidemic in America. There's something about a handgun. Something about rifles and shotguns and Uzis people want and the drug dealers and gang bangers have them," said Mayor Daley.

"And they walk in the streets and sometimes you can see these guns under their belt," said Ald. Ed Smith, 21st Ward.

Alderman Ed Smith says three times in recent years...he's been caught in the crossfire of gunfights in his 21st ward. He doesn't fault police who act in self defense when they see a gun.

"But you can't ask a policeman to put his life on the line when someone else has a gun. He has to protect himself," said Ald. Smith.

Daley said despite the law's ineffectiveness at deterring people from carrying guns, it's worth having on the books.

"If you save one child's life, its worth it," said Daley.

It's possible the U.S. Supreme Court could rule as early as this week on municipal handgun bans. The Washington, D.C. ban has already been overturned by an appeals court. The Supreme Court is a last resort.


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