Dave Workman is an author, senior editor of Gun Week, communications director for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, award-winning outdoor writer, former member of the NRA Board of Directors.
March 25, 9:32 AM ·
Suppose the Alabama Legislature was considering an amendment to a bill that would prevent residents in a specific neighborhood of Birmingham that was heavily populated by minorities from exercising a constitutionally-protected civil right, say voting?
The outrage that would erupt over something like that would be deafening. Sunday morning news programs would be loaded with volatile rhetoric from the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and no doubt marches would be staged at the home of the lawmaker who sponsored such a horrendous piece of legislation.
Well, welcome to Springfield, Illinois where State Rep. Andre M. Thapedi, a Democrat representing the 32nd District on Chicago’s South Side has introduced an amendment to House Bill 1966 that specifically prevents residents in the Englewood neighborhood from owning, selling, buying or manufacturing “any assault weapon or .50 caliber rifle.”
He’s done some serious homework on this by identifying the specific zip codes – 60619, 60620, 60621, 60629, 60636 and 60637 – where the residents apparently cannot be trusted with these firearms while, apparently because every other zip code in the state was not included, every other Illinois citizen is free to possess these guns.
As it happens, the 32nd District extends through these zip codes and according to a contact at the Chicago Sun-Times, this area is overwhelmingly African-American, with a small percentage of Hispanics. Rep. Thapedi is African-American, and he did not return my call to ask about this amendment.
It doesn’t matter what one thinks about so-called “assault weapons” or even .50-caliber target rifles. What does matter is how one thinks about a piece of legislation that targets the residents of a specific neighborhood; an amendment that singles them out as “different” and perhaps less trustworthy with firearms – any firearms, perhaps – than other Chicago residents, or other residents of Illinois.
Forget about the guns for a moment. Let’s say residents in those zip codes should be barred from sending their children to school. How about we pass a law denying health care to anyone living in those zip codes? Or maybe we ought to just deny legal representation to anyone living in that neighborhood who is arrested by the police.
If residents of a specific neighborhood can be denied the right to have a firearm because of their residence and no other reason, what’s to stop the limitation of other rights or government services by legislative whim?
Not that it matters, but this neighborhood is home to the St. Sabina Catholic church, the parish of radical priest Michael Pfleger. He is the priest who, during a demonstration outside of Chuck’s Gun Shop in suburban Riverdale, called on the crowd to “snuff” gun shop owner John Riggio; you know, the same priest who delivered some rather colorful remarks about former Sen. Hillary Clinton when she was running in the Democratic primary against Chicago Sen. Barack Obama.
Perhaps Rep. Thapedi should be given some slack because his intentions are probably good. Rep. Thapedi ought to consult with Father Pfleger about how the Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
While Rep. Thapedi would not speak to me, Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA), would.
“It’s hard to believe that Rep. Thapedi would be attacking members of his own ethnic community and trying to take their rights away from them,” Pearson commented after learning that the amendment actually passed a vote on the morning of March 25.
ISRA is currently involved in a lawsuit against the City of Chicago over its long-standing handgun ban that, surprise of surprises, has not stemmed the tide of violent crime in the Windy City. ISRA joined the Second Amendment Foundation and four Chicago residents in that lawsuit about 30 minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic Second Amendment ruling in the case of District of Columbia v. Dick Anthony Heller on June 26, 2008. The District’s handgun ban was declared unconstitutional, and the SAF/ISRA lawsuit – along with another lawsuit filed the following day by the National Rifle Association – seeks the same fate for Chicago’s handgun ban.
Unlike Rep. Thapedi’s amendment, the SAF/ISRA and NRA lawsuits seek to restore an important right to all of Chicago’s law-abiding residents, not single out neighborhoods where the residents can’t even be trusted with the rights they already have.