By Nancy Thorner and Ed Ingold (resident of Mundelein)
The headlines in newspapers on Tuesday, December 11th, both outside of Illinois and in the state, carried a similar message citing that a federal appeals court had struck down a ban on carrying concealed weapons in Illinois. Excluding Washington, D.C., Illinois is the only state where carrying concealed weapons is entirely illegal. Lawmakers were given 180 days to write a a law legalizing it.
Without delay Chicago aldermen urged state officials to appeal the appellate court's decision tossing Illinois' ban on concealed weapons. Some aldermen even suggested launching their own legal battle. Mayor Rahm Emanuel angrily denounced Tuesday's ruling as a decision by judges who are out of touch with the dangers many residents face. The mayor receives 24/7 armed protection, so he should know about dangers on the street.
The only workable solution in Illinois might be to establish a state-wide licensing system which preempts local law. Otherwise every home rule community would have a different set of rules, making it impossible to travel freely without violating some law or another. Any city with 25,000 or more residents is automatically granted home rule at the request of the mayor or city council. Cities with fewer residents can apply for home-rule base through a referendum. Lake Forest, Illinois, with 16,000 or so residents, is an example of the latter.
In most states, local laws are preempted by statute, but large, "blue" cities often ignore the law. Pennsylvania grants state-wide concealed carry permits. Philadelphia has nonetheless arrests or detains legally armed citizens regularly, and has lost several lawsuits as a result. Washington state preempts local law, and allows carry in government buildings unless posted or prohibited by federal law. Seattle designates corner bus stops as posted "government" buildings. It's hard enough to get a carry permit in New York State, but nearly impossible in NYC, unless you are a politician, movie star or millionaire.
Progressive-liberals, including most big city mayors, have a mind set that all guns are bad, and that concealed weapons permits will lead to a rise in crime. The exact opposite is true, but explaining this to a closed mind is like administering medicine to a corpse. Concealed weapons have very little effect on homicides, except that a few are moved into the "justifiable" column (about 200 a year in the US). There is a dramatic reduction in violent assaults, however, as much as 50% since 1994 in Florida, compared a nation wide decrease of about 30% in the same time period. Carjackers and muggers never know when their victim (or witness) might be armed.
Now let's move the hands of the clock ahead a few days to the hideous elementary school shooting on Friday, December 14th, in Newtown, Connecticut, where eighteen children and eight adults were killed and the 20 year-old shooter committed suicide. The Sandy Hook Elementary School principal who lost her life lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overpower him might have been able to stop Adam Lanza in his tracks had she been armed.
We grieve for the parents and relatives. It is as though they were our own children or grandchildren. I can't fathom what kind of monster would do such a thing.
Sunday, the Connecticut State Police confirmed that Lanza used a Bushmaster to commit the killings. He had on himself two other handguns, one of which he used to commit suicide. A fourth rifle – also a .223 caliber – was found in his car.
As expected, gun-control advocates quickly used Twitter and the media to blame firearms for the senseless murders. Gun-haters will be out in full force, because no crisis should go to waste.
CNN's Piers Morgan tweeted: "Another day, another horrific shooting. America's gun culture has to change. When will America deal with its gun madness?
In a statement to the nation on the day of the kindergarten massacre, President Obama told the nation, "We're going to have to come together and take a meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this regardless of the politics." New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg response demanded that President Obama take immediate action. "Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard this rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership -- not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response."
The sad fact is that Connecticut has very strict gun control, and the shooter would not be legally entitled to own a firearm, much less a concealed weapons permit. These things happen because there are deranged people in this world who will find a way to go out with a lot of publicity, whether with a rifle, box cutter or gasoline can. Sometimes they could have been stopped, as in Aurora CO, if a qualified psychiatrist had not kicked the can down the road, along with the college's administration. Most of the time, however, there isn't much warning.
Mark Furman, former LA Police Detective, summed it up pretty well. The shooter, Adam Lanza, left home and entered the school with no intention of leaving again. Rather than leave a quiet suicide note, he lets the news media flash his face and history across the world. He lived with his mother, Nancy, who taught at Sandy Hook Elementary School who he shot dead before leaving for his shooting spree.
Much has improved in terms of emergency response. The police arrived within a minute of the Sandy Hook, cold-blooded shooting massacre and entered the school immediately, without waiting for a SWAT team. They did the same at the Mall in Portland, OR. At Virginia Tech, the police had 2-3 hours notice that there was a shooting on campus, and waited outside the final scene for 20 minutes while people were still being shot. At Northern Illinois University, the campus police waited outside for 15 minutes, until backup arrived. In Aurora CO, campus police dropped their investigation of threats James Walker made to teachers, after he quit or was expelled from school. (One wonders why we need armed campus police to write parking tickets in Illinois and Colorado.)
Although a so-called "assault" weapon, a semi-automatic AR style rifle, was found in Lanza's car, it was not used in the shootings. Nonetheless, availability of "assault weapons" to civilians are being singled out as the cause for violence. There are more than 30 million of these rifles in private hands, three of which were involved in mass shootings this year. Semi-automatic rifles account for less than 1% of all violent crimes, according to FBI statistics. Opponents claim that the don't have a role in self-defense. This too is false and misleading.
In a perfect world, guns wouldn't be used in crime if there were no guns, but that's hardly a practical solution. Criminals will always find weapons, even if they steal them from police or the military (Clyde Barrow got his machine guns from national guard armories). Before guns there were spears and arrows. Before that, there were pointed sticks and clubs.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, teams of looters went from house to house, breaking in even if they were occupied. The same thing happens in lesser natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, brush fires or even extended power outages. Business owners in "Korea Town" Los Angeles, used AR rifles to turn away mobs bent on looting and destruction following the 1992 acquittals of officers in the Rodney King incident. The businesses were largely destroyed during the Watts riots in 1965. A handgun is not much use against multiple aggressors. A rifle is effective even if they are armed and active, and a dozen rifles can stand off a mob. Looters had little to fear in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, where honest citizens find it nearly impossible to own a firearm.
Most likely, as with shooters of the past, there will be revelations about Adam Lanza's state of mind that triggered his erratic action that to most individuals is beyond their comprehension, which only seem important in retrospect. The real key to preventing these random acts of violence is early detection of these symptoms, so that the person can be treated or confined.
On the day of the shooting, Charles Krauthammer, a regular panel member on 5:00 p.m. Fox News TV program and a trained psychiatrist, analyzed the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in terms of 1) The psychology of the shooter, 2) the weapons themselves, and 3) today's culture and environment.
Krauthammer concluded that Evil does lurk within the minds of those who do such heinous acts, which is most often impossible to determine before the individuals acts out his fury on others. If not guns, those with evil intentions will use other methods to kill or injure others.
Most importantly, society has changed for the worse where young people are de-sensitized to violence by entertainment media and video games. Businesses allow slot machines in the malls where teens play shooting and killing.
Sick minds are fascinated by the publicity generated by these insane acts on the news. We can't blame the messengers, but the 24/7 news cycle must contribute to copycat crimes. At what price comes Andy Warhole's phrase, "fifteen minutes of fame." What better target than activities people feel safe doing, like malls and sporting events? What could bring more publicity than attacking what we cherish the most - our children?
Killers choose schools because they are gun-free zones and thus pose no risk to the person wanting to kill for reasons known only to them. But does it make sense to have gun-control cities in which gang-bangers thrive and where they make up the only armed residents at locations where the most murders take place? The City of Chicago is prime example!
Published initially at Illinois Review on Monday, December 17.