Grief is a process: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. The Chicago Tribune, for example, is slowly coming to terms with the fact that Illinois residents will soon be able to exercise their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. They are at the beginning of their journey, moving out of denial. Permit to carry gun no license to shoot, the headline proclaims. “This spring, law-abiding residents of Illinois will be able to walk the streets with a loaded gun,” the lead announces with bated breath. “But those who decide to carry concealed weapons will have to grapple with a tough question: When is it appropriate to pull the trigger? The answer, according to some firearms experts, isn’t always easy to figure out. And the legal and emotional consequences of making a bad decision can be dire.” You’d expect a litany of defensive gun uses (DGU’s) gone wrong. If so, well . . .
You’d be wrong. OK, not entirely. The Trib is not quite out of denial yet. Yet the majority of the article provides common sense (yes, I said it) advice on when it’s OK to use deadly force to stop an imminent and credible threat to life and limb – although the authors don’t quite put it that way.
The Illinois statute makes it clear that firearms can only be used in cases of self-defense or in the defense of others — and imminent danger must be present. Only individuals know the point at which they feel their life or someone else’s is being threatened. And that sometimes creates a gray area where mistakes can be made.
Insert stories of bad shoots here, followed by quotes from politicians and anti-gunners predicting blood in the streets? Not this time, Mr. Bond . . .
Ultimately, it is up to prosecutors to determine whether a shooting constitutes a crime. Whether the gunman has a concealed weapons license does not affect how prosecutors evaluate an incident, officials said.
“What one person might perceive as imminent danger could be different from another’s, but when we look at a case, we look at the facts and the individual case and determine whether a person was properly using self-defense,” said John Brassil, supervisor for the felony review unit of the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
Officials acknowledged there will be a learning curve for gun carriers and law enforcement officers who will have to get accustomed to dealing with people carrying legal firearms. But prosecutors said nothing will change in the way cases are prosecuted when a civilian shoots someone.
“The self-defense laws were not changed by the concealed carry statute,” Brassil said. “The concealed carry statute, in effect, allows persons to possess a weapon certain places … but you have to look at other statutes and determine whether a person was justified in the use of a weapon.”
That’s the good news, illustrated by examples of good shoots and spot-on quotes from two Chicago-area firearms instructors. But I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the authors’ attempt to inject
a deep sense of foreboding “balance” into a story weighing the personal impact of concealed carry. In fact, the article ends with one such “cautionary tale.”
Todd Hadley . . . used his 9 mm handgun to shoot a man to death and wound another outside a Milwaukee party in November 2012. He had a concealed carry license, though the gun was not concealed in the moments before the shooting. His lawyer contended he fired in self-defense after being chased, threatened and hit with a glancing punch. But prosecutors charged him with reckless homicide and recklessly endangering safety with a dangerous weapon.
Hadley, 27, spent 11 months in jail before he had a jury trial and was acquitted.
He said the shooting only strengthened his belief that he needs to protect himself. Though he said he thought the shooting was justified because he was in serious danger, it has changed his life.
His incarceration was stressful for his mother, he said. And after his trial, he left Milwaukee for Illinois because he feared retaliation for the shooting.
“I wish that it didn’t happen,” he said.
Just as the editors of the Chicago Tribune wished the state hadn’t repealed its concealed carry ban, making it possible for citizens to defend their lives against criminal predation, and their liberty against the statist ambitions of local, state and federal government. But they did. And the paper will have to come to terms with it. But first . . . anger.
Mark my words: The Trib will greet the first lethal Chicagoland DGU with howls of righteous indignation and torrents of I-told-you-so’s. And then, someday, they’ll move on. Thank God and the tireless efforts of pro-gun groups.