Standing Guard: A Savage Fury

Friday, January 22, 2010

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Through cable news networks and scores of website postings, millions of Americans have seen the horrifying beating death of a 16-year-old Chicago honor student--bludgeoned by a thug swinging a five-foot length of heavy lumber. The cellphone video taken by a bystander in the midst of chaotic gang violence shows the boy slumping to the pavement unconscious then trying to get to his feet only to be hit, stomped and kicked by more gang-bangers. And there is laughter. A girl's desperate voice says, "Darrion, get up." He never regained consciousness.

Four juveniles were later arrested, charged as adults with the first-degree murder of Darrion Albert--reportedly a good youngster in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was on his way from school to a bus stop. More arrests are forthcoming.

After the initial expressions of shock by politicians and the media, the story faded. But imagine if a gang member using a stolen handgun had committed this senseless murder. Headlines would have blared, "Chicago youth killed by assault handgun." It would have dominated the media for weeks and may have become a permanent icon in the gun-ban archive to bolster demands that America's law-abiding gun owners pay the price with their individual liberty for a singular act of savagery in President Obama's handgun-banning hometown.

Since no firearm was involved, the vultures at the Brady Campaign and the Violence Policy Center and their big media enablers saw no political advantage in saying anything. There was no reason to trot out their gun-ban boilerplate. After all, this was not a "gun crime."

New York billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg's anti-gun propaganda machine had nothing to say. This violent death did not serve his ends of bringing New York City's civil disarmament to the rest of America. The horrifying death of Darrion Albert did not produce a single headline declaring that this young, high school junior was killed by a board.

No federal agency frantically traced the origin of the heavy piece of lumber used to strike the fatal blow that snuffed out a promising life. There were no demands to create a massive federal lumber database to determine who originally sold the board or where it was manufactured. This was not labeled a "Saturday-Night-Special board," or an "assault board." Trial lawyers didn't file suits against loggers, sawmills or lumber yards claiming the murder was their fault for not controlling the "foreseeable" criminal use of their forest products. No one called for a ban on construction-grade lumber. No one demanded that those Americans who do not use lumber in senseless acts of violence give up their use of wood.

None of that has anything to do with the after-school mob scene in a Chicago neighborhood. It would be irrelevant. A bizarre mockery of the real story--the growth of an outlaw class that places no value on human life.

And so it is with gun control.

In a city that bans handgun owner-ship and demands annual re-registration of long guns, the statistics about teenage gang-related murders are appalling. Chicago is the murder capital of the nation. Yet whenever guns are used by murderers, there is always that irrational demand for bans on guns that you and I own and use legally. The truth is you can't make criminal commerce, possession and use of guns any more illegal than they are under existing federal law.

In Darrion Albert's case, the gun-ban crowd's usual fog of propaganda did not obscure the true nature of this horrible crime. The media with uncharacteristic clarity reported that Darrion Albert was randomly killed by young men who are responsible for their own savage acts.

Adding more shock to the tragedy, an instant memorial created by friends and mourners at the site of Darrion Albert's assault was set on fire and destroyed by gang members. In the video, many watching the mob scene were on their cell phones, but according to police, not one kid phoned the authorities.

The call to police reporting the initial gang fight came from employ-ees in a nearby community center.

And what about the argument that the police can protect people better than armed, peaceable citizens? In the aftermath of Darrion Albert's murder, the Rev. Jesse Jackson--a strong supporter of Chicago's gun-ban laws--answered that question. He claimed in an interview that Chicago police officers were near the scene, but failed to intercede.

What if one of the adult civilian eyewitnesses who did phone police had been lawfully armed with a handgun? Would the life of Darrion Albert have been spared? As I've said before, an instant responder who can stop violence is better than first responders, who all too often clean up the aftermath of violence.

That brings us to potential salvation for the disarmed good people of Chicago (and of every other locality with similar bans) as the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the landmark Constitutional challenge to Chicago's ban on handguns. (For details, read NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox's in-depth analysis of McDonald v. Chicago here.) A court decision restoring a citizen's right to own a handgun and the right to self-defense could spell the difference between life and death in the Windy City.

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