Mayor Daley loves to bag on the local media, and given my recent line of inquiry into his politics and policies, I’ve never expected to be greeted with a fruit basket at City Hall.
But even I was a bit taken aback this morning when the mayor grabbed a rifle and threatened to shoot me.
The mayor was holding a press conference to discuss what the city was doing to prepare for the Supreme Court’s expected decision to overturn the city’s gun ban. The short answer: all sorts of things, but we’ll just have to wait until the court weighs in next month to find out the details. “We’re hoping for the best,” Daley said.
Guns are one of the mayor’s favorite soapbox topics—he regularly goes out of his way to point out that he despises gun manufacturers and “extremists” like the NRA. “It’s really amazing how powerful they are,” he said today, standing next to a table covered with handguns, rifles, and even a machine gun that police had seized. “They’re bigger than the oil industry, bigger than the gas industry, bigger than Google, bigger than President Obama and the rest of them."
Daley also likes to highlight what he considers to be flagrant hypocrisy on the part of the defenders of gun rights. “Now you can’t walk into the Supreme Court—you have to walk in the side way. They’re going to barricade the doors or something now. I mean, they’re barricading the doors but they’re saying everyone else should have guns. That’s the thing that bothers me in Washington. As you know in Washington all things are being barricaded, all federal buildings. But they’re saying everybody else should be able to carry guns.”
But even supporters of tough gun regulations—myself included—have to admit that it's not clear how much they reduce violence. Despite having some of the most restrictive laws in the country, Chicago is a national leader in shootings and murders, and the mayor himself noted that “we’ve seen far too many instances in the last few weeks” of firearm violence, including the shooting that left a cop dead last night.
So I asked: since guns are readily available in Chicago even with a ban in place, do you really think it’s been effective?
I’m hardly the only guy who asks the mayor things he doesn’t want to answer, and I’ve been responsible for at least one of his huffing, puffing, ranting tangents, which generally get the press corps laughing, thus enabling him to move on to the next question without giving a real answer to the one at hand.
But even by those standards, this was a masterful and surreal performance.
“Oh!” Daley said. “It’s been very effective!”
He grabbed a rifle, held it up, and looked right at me. He was chuckling but there was no smile.
“If I put this up your—ha!—your butt—ha ha!—you’ll find out how effective this is!”
For a moment the room was very, very quiet. I took a good look at the weapon. It had a long bayonet. (Was it seized during the Civil War?)
“If I put a round up your—ha ha!”
The photographers snapped away. Suddenly everybody started cracking up.
Daley went on. “This gun saved many lives—it could save your life,” he said—meaning, I think, that getting that gun off the street might have saved many lives, including mine.
And he went on some more. “We save all these guns that the police department seizes, you know how many lives we’ve saved? You don’t realize it. First of all, they’re taking these guns out of someone’s hands. They save their own life and they save someone else’s. You cannot count how many times this gun can be used. Thirty, forty times in shooting people and discharging a weapon. I think it’s very important.
“Next will be hand grenades, right? We’ll say that hand grenades are OK. I mean, how far can you go in regards to mass weapons? To me, any gun taken off saves thousands of lives in America. I really believe that, I don’t care what people tell me. You have to thank the police officers for seizing all these weapons. We lead the country in seizing weapons. This is unbelievable.”
I had to agree.