An Open Letter from Colleen Lawson, McDonald v Chicago
Could you please help me decide which
of my kids lives to save? Here's the problem:
Last night yet another of my kids found himself on the
goodbye end of a robber's gun as the robber slowly
"5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . "
I know you politicians told us "if it saves one life,
then keeping guns away from law-abiding citizens is
the right thing to do!" but I'm having a little
trouble figuring out which life is the one to be
saved. I've had most of these kids for 20 years or
more, and I'm rather fond of them all.
My kid last night? It was his third time facing armed
robbers in Chicago, in Illinois. Can you tell me how
many times is just right and how many times is too
The one last night was in a convenience store at the
time. He and his friend had gone into the store to buy
soda, and they hid as the robber stuck his gun in the
face of the store clerk and began counting down.
Do you give classes in hiding? Wait, that can't be
right, cause many kids get found anyway, and it's not
always easy to stay quiet if your heart is thudding
and you're afraid. Maybe you give classes in what kids
should do if they find themselves around guns. No,
that's not right. State Sen. Annazette Collins
proposed that idea, to keep kids safe and deglamorize
firearms, and she was roundly trounced for the idea.
Mr. Legislator, all my kids have been robbed at
gunpoint on the streets of Chicago -- well, all the
young ones, who still live in Chicago. Does that mean
that it's better for my kids to live someplace else?
Wait, that can't be right, because you keep telling us
that Chicago is a good place to raise children.
Is it best to just stay home? That can't be right,
cause the first time he was robbed at gunpoint he was
on the steps of his own house.
Maybe being in a group is best. No, that can't be
right, either. The last time, three of my kids had
grouped together for safety as they walked home from a
friend's house. But their attackers had grouped
together, too. Three unarmed victims, three robbers
with guns, just over three blocks from home in what
was once one of the three safest areas of the city.
Mr. Legislator, I have tried to keep my family safe by
living in an area where lots of policemen live. But it
seems to be open season on cops, too, in Chicago. Even
Thomas Wortham, a cop who was also the son of a cop,
was shot in front of his parents home as his father
Should I try one of the other "safe" areas? No, less
than twenty-four hours ago, an acquaintance of mine
was in a group of 4 and got robbed in Lincoln Park by
. . . a group of 4.
Maybe only going out in daylight is the answer? Or
maybe in an area that's more retail than residential?
Gosh, that can't be right: Two of my girls were
attacked mid-afternoon as they waited for a bus right
outside a major shopping mall.
Perhaps you say that everything's fine because none of
my kids were shot or killed, and because last night's
robber chose to be contented with the money and goods,
and let the clerk and customers go. But it would have
been hard to say that as I wiped the blood from the
face of the one who'd had her head slammed into the
concrete sidewalk as she and her friends were robbed.
And that can't be right, anyhow, cause not everybody's
kids escape uninjured.
Can you tell me if there is a questionnaire that we
give to a criminal to determine which ones will be
"nice" and not kill their victims? Just hurt them a
"little" or leave them in fear for a while? How much
is "a little"? How long is an okay "while"?
Maybe I've misunderstood the whole "if it saves one
life" policy; Does it mean that, so long as it's MY
kids life that's saved by being unarmed on the streets
of Chicago, the disarmed citizen policy in Illinois is
still justified? Which kid? What do I tell the
siblings? What do I tell my neighbors, as they mourn
for their slain kids?
What if it's your kid that gets killed or hurt, Mr.
Legislator, and I'm unable to help?
A couple of these kids aren't mine by birth: they just
hang out at my house cause they feel safe here. Should
I tell them to stop feeling safe?
To me, they're all my kids, and I tell them every day
how valuable they all are. One studies daily for her
GED, one's in college to be a grade school teacher,
one's still in high school, one works twelve hours a
day helping underprivileged children, one's less than
a semester away from getting his law degree. Should I
ease up on the value talk? Should I tell them that,
"Hey, folks die every day, that's just the way it is?"
Devalue life a little bit so they don't think there's
anything unusual about being helpless victims?
No. That can't be right. Because that is exactly how
you grow a criminal. You desensitize him to the value
of life, take away his sense of what is right and what
is wrong, and expose him to crime after crime after
crime after crime until he sees no hope for the future
and learns to either be a victim or to look for
And that is exactly how you grow a victim. Let them
know that there is no chance of anyone nearby who has
the ability to help them if they find themselves at
the mercy of an attacker. Gee, it sounds like the same
thing you tell a would-be attacker, doesn't it? Let
them know that they need have no fear of anyone being
able to fight back. And they will come. And they do
come. And keep on coming. There are entire blocks in
Chicago where street attacks have occurred weekly --
WEEKLY, Legislator! -- for years without a single
arrest being made.
Dear Legislator, please tell me what I am to say to my
kids today, when they ask me why this keeps happening
to them. I really want to know. I don't mean to cut
into your busy day. I just want to do what's right.
Maybe it would be easiest to just share with me what
you tell your own kids and I will share it with mine.
I totally understand that your intentions were good
when Illinois first believed that criminals would obey
the same no-gun laws that the law-abiding follow ...
but what do you tell your kids when they ask you why
we have not ripped away that errant foundation as has
every other state within America? What do you tell
them when they ask how you will know which of them
will be hurt or killed by an attacker, and how you
have chosen that to be okay by you?
What do you tell your kids when they ask why we
elected you, then gave some of you the right to
conceal carry, and others of you the expense of a
protection detail, and then nod our heads in
submission as you tell the rest of us that it is
better that we do not get the same ability to defend
Criminals know that there are less than a thousand
Chicago cops armed and able to stop them during any
given shift these days.
I personally know thousands of Illinois private
citizens who take their citizen responsibility
seriously enough that 34 other states trust them to
calmly, competently and maturely carry concealed
firearms as they live their daily lives. The children
in those states can stand on their own steps, shop in
convenience stores and wait for busses near malls with
the confidence that they and would-be criminals are
constantly aware that someone may be right nearby to
thwart an attack and help them stay safe. Someone who
has so committed themselves to time, training and
mastery of defense that they stand out easily as the
calmest ones seen in an emergency situation.
But in Illinois, criminals and victims walk our
streets with only the confidence that, unless you --
personally, Legislator -- stand in support of HB 148
and bring concealed carry to the lone holdout state of
Illinois, no one will ever come to your children's aid
if they, like my kids, find themselves at the mercy of
an attack. This can't be right, can it?
Though I have taken the time to learn and master the
calm and skill necessary to defend my family and
yours, I cannot personally afford a security detail
for my family at this time. If you won't allow me to
defend my children - and yours - in the face of armed
attack on the streets of Illinois, will you kindly
share your protection detail with my family? My
neighbor wants to hear your answer, too.
And, if you will not, then tell me, please: What shall
I say to my kid today, as I help him through the sound
he's heard again and again for the past 12 hours?
You remember -- the one that goes "5 . . . 4 . .
. 3 . . . 2 . . . ?"
How long should he wait for the final "click"?
How long should I?
ISRA Member Colleen Lawson posted this on her
Facebook page today, 3/21/2001.
This is reprinted here with her permission.
ISRA needs your continued support. McDonald v
Chicago was not the end of the fight but the beginning.
The ISRA is the front line in the battles for your
firearm rights here in Illinois, such as the new lawsuit
to prevent Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan from
forcing the Illinois State Police to release your FOID
information to the Associated Press.