The shooting occurred about a week after an 80-year-old Army veteran used a handgun to shoot and kill an armed burglar who had broken into his home. In both cases, the weapons violated the city’s 28-year-old handgun ban, but police so far have declined to press charges.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on the constitutionality of Chicago’s gun ban, and many believe the justices will strike it down. But, while those on both sides of the gun-rights debate eagerly await the verdict, the decision is essentially irrelevant for many who live in Chicago.
By one expert’s estimate, there is a handgun in as many as 100,000 city households, despite the ban. And gang members or those with misdeeds in mind aren’t the only ones who have them. In some neighborhoods, otherwise-law-abiding citizens feel forced to violate the gun ban, they say, to protect themselves and their families.
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"You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do," said a DVD salesman from Marquette Park, who has two daughters and said he bought a handgun after two thugs shot him during a recent robbery attempt. "I think people need guns to protect themselves."
Pinpointing how many handguns are in Chicago isn’t easy, said Jens Ludwig, a University of Chicago professor and director of the university’s Crime Lab. There’s no government data tracking them, illegal guns by nature are not registered, and a random survey would be like "calling people up and asking them if they engage in any other illegal behavior, like snorting cocaine or beating their kids," he said.
But based on a study that Ludwig and other experts conducted in 2007 on Chicago’s underground gun market, he roughly estimated that as many as 100,000 Chicago households could have handguns.
"Judging from the available data, there are apparently a lot of people in Chicago who feel strongly enough they need a gun for protection that they’re willing to ignore the ban," Ludwig said.
The report’s authors estimated about 1,400 black-market gun sales occurred each year in the Grand Boulevard-Washington Park neighborhood, "or about one sale per year for every 30 people living in this very high-crime neighborhood." In interviews with more than 100 non-gang members ages 18 to 21 who owned guns, the report found the price was $250 to $400, a serious mark-up above legal prices. Read more.