Defying Chicago's ordinance against handgun ownership, Concealed Carry, Inc., an Oak Brook gun rights organization, announced in April a plan to give away one Kel-Tec .32-caliber semiautomatic a month to a Chicago citizen. And on May 6, Concealed Carry handed out the first gun. Residents interested in winning a gun were asked to E-mail Concealed Carry's president, John Birch, a statement explaining why they needed a gun, and Birch said he's so far received around 30 entries, most of which have seemed sincere. The first winner, though, wasn't picked from this pool; instead he was someone Birch knew before the contest began. The man, whom Birch wouldn't identify, is a Hasidic Jew living in West Rogers Park. Birch says he was chosen for two reasons: "One, he would be hard for Mayor Daley to go after without paying a political price, and, two, he was willing to take the gun. With all the press, a lot of people got spooked." Indeed, the original person slated to win, one of the Orthodox Jews shot by white supremacist Benjamin Smith in his 1999 midwest shooting spree, backed out because of the media attention. The second winner, to be announced officially at the end of May or beginning of June, is a flight attendant who did E-mail Birch her reasons for needing a gun. Below is a portion of her message as well as some other people's entries.
"I'm a flight attendant for a major airline out of O'Hare, and I completely agree that our pilots and WE flight attendants, as WELL, should be armed. My work environment is definitely not safe, and no amount of metal detectors or media hype will ever convince me otherwise....I'm often alone, in the city, and I can't just stay home, afraid to get in my car and run errands! I DO know, though, that I'm sick of dealing with freak men harassing me. I'm worried that, one day, I'll be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I want a fighting chance hidden in my purse."
"I am a gay man who is on disability due to having AIDS. I have repeatedly been called a variety of ugly names and have been followed home once by two of the thugs who hang out on the street. They didn't do anything but follow me to my house and stand outside for about 15 minutes after I got in but it makes me afraid every time I need to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy or doctor's, or even walk my little schnauzer. I am also afraid that they are going to steal my dog and use her to train the two pit bulls that they always have with them. I am also afraid that I'm going to end up an innocent bystander in a gang-related drive-by shooting....While I always carry a cell phone to call the police, a gun would make these guys back off the next time they decide to follow me home."
"Dear sir, as a law bidding citizen of Chicago, it seems incredulous that I am not allowed a firearm to protect my family. In my neighborhood I have seen religious Jews shot at, harassed, and vilified. As one who believes the best offense is a strong defense and the adage of 'every Jew a .22,' I would like to apply for your monthly gift. Be strong."
"I feel I need a gun because three weeks ago my first child was born. I think it is the father's responsibility to protect his family. I live in the murder capital of the country. I have a FOID and I have been trained in the use of firearms by the U.S. Army."
"I am a single mom with three boys, not on welfare. Work odd hours and when a politician gives a speech at noon, he is protected by bodyguards and when you are five feet and 100 lbs...you go home unarmed."
"To whom it may concern, I'm applying for the opportunity to be bestowed with a firearm courtesy of Concealed Carry, Inc. I'm currently married, living in the inner city of Chicago, and feel that with the protection of a handgun I will be able to provide my family with a feeling of safety. I understand the responsibility that comes with owning a handgun and am prepared to take all necessary safety precautions."
"Dear John, as they are asking people to send you E-mails of protest, I myself am sending you a msg of support. I am a law-abiding citizen sick and tired of the constant menace imposed upon people like me by the gangs that roam my neighborhood looking for victims. I am sick and tired of worrying about the safety of my wife every time she goes out to walk the dog or go grocery shopping. I want the city to allow citizens like myself to carry concealed weapons provided I have a valid FOID card, no criminal record etc etc. So keep doing what you are doing, a lot of people like myself are 100 percent behind you."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Mike Werner.