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Truth in numbers: Illinois citizens want to be armed

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may be dismayed at yesterday’s report by the Associated Press that more than 2,500 concealed carry permit applications have been filed just in Cook County since the application period opened in Illinois a few weeks ago, thanks to a Second Amendment Foundation court victory that forced lawmakers to pass a law last year.

As of yesterday, the Associated Press added, more than 11,000 applications – including about 4,500 filed on Sunday when the state’s on-line application system opened – have been filed. Timing will be good for this year's Gun Rights Policy Conference, sponsored by SAF and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, as the event returns to Chicago in late September.

It has been a bad week of pro-gun news for the anti-gun mayor, and it is only Wednesday. On Monday, as this column reported, Federal District Court Judge Edmond E. Chang – an Obama appointee – struck down Chicago’s ban on firearms sales in the city as unconstitutional. Yesterday, published reports said the disappointed Emanuel “strongly disagreed” with the judge’s ruling, while SAF Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said he was “delighted.” The Christian Science Monitor and National Review on-line also had lengthy stories yesterday about Illinois guns and Monday's court ruling that struck down Chicago's ban on gun sales.

SAF cases paved the way for this week’s court victory, even though the Monday ruling was in a case that was not filed by the gun rights organization. Judge Chang did cite earlier SAF victories including McDonald v. City of Chicago, Ezell v. City of Chicago and Moore v. Madigan in his 35-page decision against the city ban.

Anti-gunners have long argued that people do not want firearms “flooding” their communities, but the numbers tell a different story, or at least offer different perspective. Perhaps people simply don’t want guns in the hands of criminals in their communities, and when given the opportunity to level the playing field, Illinois citizens appear to be doing what Americans have done everywhere else concealed carry is available.

State police have estimated that upwards of 350,000 to 400,000 permit applications will be submitted over the next year in Illinois. The same phenomenon, on a smaller scale, happened in neighboring Wisconsin just over two years ago when that state finally passed a concealed carry statute.

Perhaps not surprisingly in the Associated Press report, there were no applications in down state Marion County Sunday. But Chicago applications, to the apparent consternation of Mayor Emanuel, a career anti-gunner, are piling up. Citizens there want to be armed. They want to exercise their right to bear arms. They want to know how it feels to be able to walk in their own neighborhoods without fear, or at least with the ability to fight back against the violent thugs now running the streets, and providing a body count that the Chicago Sun-Times has maintained in its pages.

More than 11,000 people so far are eager to go through a procession of bureaucratic hoops that include getting or having a state Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card, passing a background check and completing a 16-hour training course. For a public long denied this chance, they are lining up. One might suggest that for citizens too long deprived of the same rights as their neighbors in other states, it is no surprise that they would gladly pay the $150 for a five-year carry permit after going through the hassle for a “taste” of new-found liberty. Who wouldn’t?

Now Illinois citizens, including tens of thousands of Emanuel’s constituents, will have that chance but it has taken a lot of money and legal activity, and it’s not over, yet. Emanuel may appeal Judge Chang’s ruling to the Seventh Circuit, the same appeals court that decided both the Ezell and Moore cases, and also Shepard v. Madigan, the National Rifle Association’s concealed carry case that was decided with Moore.

With this new liberty may come a philosophical change among many new gun owners who become converts to the gun rights movement as they realize they are not “the problem” and never have been. Gun rights activists say that the Illinois carry law is hardly perfect, but – if the Prairie State follows the national pattern – the law will gradually be amended and eased.

Each journey out of darkness begins with a first step toward the light. Emanuel and his anti-gun contemporaries prefer to keep the doors closed and the shades drawn, but the courts have provided Illinois gun owners with the opportunity to blaze a new trail.

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