Friday, July 2, 2010



Today the Chicago City Council did its traditional imitation of the former Soviet Parliament and rubber stamped the gun law Mayor Daley and his staff threw together in response to, or in anticipation of, the Supreme Court’s striking down the outright ban on handguns that had existed in the Second City since Jane Byrne was mayor.

I have some problems with the substance of the bill. Some of its provisions are incomprehensible, e.g., the requirement that all but one handgun per person per household be secured or “broken down in a non-functioning state.” Other provisions are silly, such as guns’ being allowed only in houses, not garages or porches. Still others are absurd, especially a provision inserted by Alderman Burke that requires anyone convicted of a gun offense who lives, works, or attends school in the city to register with the Chicago Police Department. This was inserted, we are told, so that the police will know whether there is a gun in a house to which they have been called. Think about it a half second. Imagine the following scene: Two cops are headed toward a crack house and this discussion takes place:

Kowalski: “Hey, O’Brien, I wonder if we’re going to encounter any bad guys with guns as we try to arrest the occupants of this reputed crack house.”

O’Brien: “Let me check.”

O’Brien punches a few keys on the onboard computer in the patrol car.

O’Brien: “It looks like no one at that address has reported owning a handgun, and no one has registered his or her firearm with the city or state.”

Kowalski: “I guess we’re safe then.”

My major problems with the bill, however, are not so much its substance, which is bad enough, but its presentation by city Corporation Counsel Mara Georges, a long time Daley favorite. One does not get the full flavor of Ms. Georges’ presentation without actually hearing it; I hope you heard it on the television or radio news yesterday or that you can replay it on the website of one of the news or news/talk radio stations (e.g., WGN, WLS, or WBBM) in town. Since it was not printed in any of the papers, I can’t quote Ms. Georges’ directly, but I come quite close in recounting below her description of what the Mayor means when he says that a handgun can be kept “in the house”:

This means inside the dwelling unit. This does NOT mean on the porch. This does NOT mean in the hallway. This does NOT mean in the garage.

Again, while that reads bad enough, one cannot get the flavor of the attitude reflected by Ms. Georges without actually hearing the tape. She sounds like a schoolmarm warning the kids that they better behave or they will get rapped with a ruler across the knuckles, but if I made that analogy I’d have to apologize to schoolmarms.

Why was Ms. Georges’ presentation so troublesome? Because it betrays an attitude on the part of bureaucrats and “elected officials,” in this case Ms. Georges and her boss, that they know better than any of us and that they will therefore tell us what to do. And we’d better pay attention. If anyone is looking for a reason why people are currently so, er, angry with their government and the politicians who make their livings in it, one would do well to look at spending, taxes, pusillanimity, and general incompetence. But one would do better to look at the “holier, and far smarter, than thou” attitude that infects those in “public life.”

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