Chicago's gun law expected to come under fire

June 26, 2008 8:57:38 PM PDT
The highest court in the United States overturned a decades-long ban on handguns in the nation's capital. It is the Supreme Court's first ruling on the constitutionality of the Second Amendment. Thursday's decision is going to have a far-reaching effect across the county and especially in Chicago where the city has had a handgun ban on the books since 1982. The National Rifle Association has already said it will file a lawsuit to try and overturn Chicago's handgun ban.

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 to strike down the ban on handguns in Washington, D.C. Thursday morning. That ban has been in place in the District of Columbia for 32 years.

Mayor Richard Daley says he doesn't know if the Supreme Court decision will affect a similar law in Chicago. But the mayor calls the ruling "a very frightening decision."

Speaking during a morning event at Navy Pier, Daley said any effort to strike down Chicago's handgun ban would likely increase taxes because of the increased need for police presence. He also says violence sparked by the end of the ban would also increase hospitalizations.

"It's amazing how the Supreme Court and Congress, you can't carry a gun into the Supreme Court. You can't carry a gun in and around the capitol building. You can't get in the capitol building without being searched. And so why should our streets of our American cities be open to someone carrying a gun?" said Mayor Daley.

For some who have come face to face with criminals, the ruling has a different meaning.

Hale DeMar and his family slept through the first break-in of their Wilmette home back in 2003. But when his children asked the next morning what their dad would do if the bad man came back, he promised he would take care of it. That very night, that same burglar broke in again.

Click here for ABC7's full interview with Hale DeMar

"There he was 200-odd pounds. There I was half naked, some 60-year-old guy. He turned toward me, moved toward me and I shot," DeMar said.

DeMar said he has no regrets. The man who broke into his Wilmette home on back-to-back nights in 2003 survived the two gunshot wounds.

That night was the first time DeMar used the gun that he kept locked-away in a closet for the previous two decades. Just having the weapon violated Wilmette's handgun ban.

"I can certainly empathies with the situation in the urban areas when you have random gun violence. However, it doesn't mitigate against my contention that I need to protect my family when the state is unable to protect your family," DeMar said.

DeMar said he was very uncomfortable with his brief stint as the poster-child for groups like the NRA. And it's still unclear if the Supreme Court's decision will actually lead to the repeal of municipal gun bans.

"If the result of this ruling is more guns on the streets, it'll make it more challenging for law enforcement," said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department.

"They've been wrong a whole of times. They're wrong again, and we're going to let them know that they're wrong. We're going to fight it," said Fr. Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina Parish.

The owner of Illinois Gun Works, just over Chicago's western border, says a local Elmwood Park ordinance already prohibits him from selling to people who live in communities with gun bans. Supreme Court or not, he's not banking on a boon in business anytime soon.

"My reaction is it's all fine and good, but I don't see it applying here anytime soon," said Don Mastrianni, Illinois Gun Works owner.

As for DeMar, he worries about what would have happened if he hadn't had a gun.

"What would he have to done to me or my children? Or perhaps taken a 7-year-old out of bed and held her for ransom or hurt the child. I have no qualms about what I did, and I'd do it again," he said.

The village of Wilmette fined DeMar $750 for violating the suburb's handgun ban.

As for the guy who broke in, he spent two-and-a-half years in prison. And then soon after his release, police re-arrested him for another home invasion, also in Wilmette.

Gun advocates say the landmark decision that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting should lead to more gun-friendly laws across Illinois.

Rick Pearson of the Illinois State Rifle Association says many pro-gun groups have been waiting for this decision before pushing for changes to restrictive gun laws.

"Well, we're pretty happy about the ruling, of course. But I've read the first couple of lines of it, so I've had a chance to hear, actually. I didn't get to read it. I got to hear it. So it looks like the individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense in the home has been upheld, and we think that's a very, very important thing," said Pearson.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said, "The Constitution does not permit the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."

"The court said laws regulating sales of guns might still be constitutional, but otherwise, any law prohibiting possession of a handgun is constitutionally doubtful," said Prof. Jeffrey Shaman, DePaul School of Law.

Chicago and four other suburbs ban handgun possession, and eight others prohibit the sale or transfer of handguns. They will no doubt now be challenged in court.

One suit, filed Thursday morning, 15 minutes after the ruling, is aimed at overturning Chicago's handgun possession ban, which critics charge has never worked well. The city says its ordinance is not invalidated and that it will continue to aggressively enforce it. But its legal standing is now very questionable.

"The system in which we've been living for so many years, in which theoretically government can regulate the possession of firearms, that's gone. The question is, what will the limitations be?" said Prof. Sheldon Nahmod, Kent College of Law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.


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