NRA's Ill Wind Blows through the Windy City

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The Boston Globe

NRA's Ill Wind Blows through the Windy City

President Obama really must say something about guns now, less he fecklessly watch the National Rifle Association take over his beloved Chicago. The NRA is appealing to the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court in Chicago last week upheld a handgun ban in Chicago and the nearby suburb of Oak Park.

The Supreme Court threw out the District of Columbia's handgun ban last year. The appeals court said that only the Supreme Court can overturn the ban since municipalities, under the Constitution, are places where "local differences can be cherished as elements of liberty rather than extirpated in order to produce a single, nationally applicable rule."

As we all know, the NRA wants one single, applicable rule of guns anywhere, anytime. It recently rolled Obama and the Democratic-led Congress into allowing loaded guns in national parks. It has silenced the Democrats on bringing back the lapsed assault weapons ban. Also last week, the fear-mongering of the NRA about attackers preying on loved ones around every corner persuaded the Tennessee Legislature to override Governor Phil Bredesen's veto of a bill that allows people to carry firearms into restaurants and bars where alcohol is served.

If there is one place Obama can take a stand, it ought to be Chicago. Once upon a time, he had lots to say about gun violence and assault weapons being found near schools. Throughout the presidential campaign, he said he was confident America could find common ground between rural family traditions of hunting and children being hunted down and slaughtered on city streets. He often referred to specific numbers of Chicago public school children being killed.

"There is nothing wrong, I think, with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets," Obama said. ". . . The problem is that we have got a position oftentimes by the NRA that says any regulation whatsoever is the camel's nose under the tent. . . . I think we can have reasonable, thoughtful gun control measures that still respect the Second Amendment and people's traditions."

Since Obama has been president, the NRA has been getting what it wants, no regulations and a censoring of reasonable, thoughtful debate. Meanwhile, the children in Chicago keep getting mowed down, with three dozen school-age children killed so far this year. Chicago police Superintendent Jody Weis told CNN, "Take weapons such as assault rifles out of an urban area. I just don't see a need for an assault rifle in the City of Chicago."

When Education Secretary Arne Duncan was running the Chicago public schools, he told CNN, "If that happened to one of Chicago's wealthiest suburbs, and God forbid it ever did, but if it was a child being shot dead every two weeks . . . do you think the status quo would remain? There's no way it would. All hell would break loose."

But now, with killing of children still going on, Duncan told the Chicago Tribune in April that he had not spoken with Obama about the issue. Speaking of his own past efforts, he told the Tribune, "I don't have any keen insight there. . . . I thought I had made things better in some areas. This is an area where I was a total failure."

The Obama administration has been such a failure on guns that Representative Carolyn McCarthy, the Democrat from New York whose husband was killed in the Long Island Railroad rampage of 1993, told the Washington Post after the House voted to allow guns in national parks that, "We have a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate and we're passing more gun legislation than when there was a Republican in the White House. It's disappointing." McCarthy further told the Associated Press, "The NRA is basically taking over the House and the Senate."

Now the NRA wants Chicago. If Obama does not take that as a personal affront, then it is all over and the NRA will take over the White House in a politically bloodless coup.

Derrick Z. Jackson

Derrick Z. Jackson is a columnist for the Boston Globe and can be reached at jackson@globe.com.

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