Why crack down on the good guys? :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Mark Brown
Why crack down on the good guys?
Gun control laws shouldn't discourage gun registration
July 16, 2008
BY MARK BROWN Sun-Times Columnist
William Greene would like to register his guns with the city of Chicago. So would Charles Wilson, Ronald Wallace, Alberto Ortega, J. Anthony Clark, Nashaat Mhanna, Thomas Scileppi and Darrell Powell.
And for the life of me, I don't really understand why we shouldn't let them.
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Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown
Each of the eight men appeared before a city hearing officer Tuesday to argue that the Chicago Police Department erred in rejecting their efforts to register -- or in many cases re-register -- their firearms.
I was in attendance mostly by accident, thinking I'd be seeing cases brought under the city's handgun ban ordinance. But my mistake turned into an eye-opening experience that I don't want to ignore just because it didn't fit my anti-gun politics.
You hear gun owners complain all the time about how our gun laws too often make criminals of otherwise law-abiding citizens, and this seemed a pretty good illustration of that.
Greene, 80, who lives on the Northwest Side, came to court with his daughter Stacey, who said she is handling most of her father's business since he suffered a heart attack two years ago.
Greene owns nine guns -- rifles and shotguns that he says he used for hunting. He last registered them in 1996. When he tried to re-register them in 2007, his application was rejected. The city's gun registration ordinance requires annual renewal within 12 months of the previous registration. Greene was 10 years too late.
'I'm not no gangster'
A nervous Greene told hearing officer Gregory Plesha that he didn't re-register the guns during that time because he was keeping them in Florida, where he owned a second home, operated a bait-and-tackle shop and did most of his hunting. Now he's back in Chicago full time and trying to straighten out his affairs.
"We're trying to get everything situated so it's legal," his daughter said.
Charles Wilson, 78, and a South Sider, was in trouble for being two months late in re-registering his five guns.
"I don't have any objection to re-registering my guns," said Wilson, who had done so for years, but this time the city won't let him.
Wilson said he spent 36 years in the Army, serving in both Korea and Vietnam. He said he's an NRA-certified gun instructor and a state-licensed security contractor.
"I'm a homeland security officer now, for Illinois," Wilson asserted.
Some further probing by Plesha elicited the clarification that Wilson is actually a security guard with a company called Illinois Homeland Security.
Out in the hallway afterward, Wilson was having a hard time understanding why the city was cracking down on him.
"I'm not no gangster, sir," said Wilson. He said he'll reluctantly get rid of the guns if the city concludes he can't register them. He doesn't want to violate the law.
Ronald Wallace had a different problem. The 44-year-old pipe fitter ran afoul of a section of the gun registration ordinance that says you have to register the guns before taking possession of them.
Wallace, a bird hunter, said he had been storing three shotguns -- purchased at suburban sporting goods stores -- at his father's house in Frankfort. But when his father died, his mother told him to take the guns. When he tried to register them, the city told him he was a few years too late.
And so it went. A 56-year-old lawyer a 65-year-old retired schoolteacher, a Chicago Ridge resident with a South Side grocery business -- and one guy who fit the "profile" with his tattoos, white T-shirt, baggy denim shorts and Nikes. But even he was only trying to re-register a shotgun he had allowed to lapse for two years.
Plesha took each case under advisement and promised a written ruling later.
Maybe you're like me and you'd just as soon nobody had any of these guns, but that's the thing: There's nothing to stop them from buying the guns. The city is just saying they can't register the guns. Or if they have registered the guns previously, they can't re-register them if they've been tardy. Does that really make sense? Is it really going to stop the "bad guys" from having guns?
It may be that some of these folks can find relief under the city's 120-day gun registration amnesty period, which went into effect last week in response to Ald. Richard Mell's personal problem with being late in re-registering his own guns. So far, 35 people have inquired about the amnesty and four have registered, a police spokesman said.
I'm not faulting city personnel for enforcing the ordinance as written, but somebody should take a second look at how it is written -- beyond the amnesty.
Gun control laws shouldn't discourage gun registration.