Dear editor:

It should not surprise us that, as Mike Sula points out, at the very moment the state of Illinois is seeking to disarm potential victims via the misnamed Safe Neighborhoods Act, there are “Pistol Packin’ Pols” (April 7) in Chicago who carry concealed weapons to protect themselves. Even Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, whom you would think had enough protection already and could take care of himself, felt the need to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon on state property.

A politician who appreciates the lifesaving potential of right-to-carry laws is Texas state representative Suzanna Gratia-Hupp. She had a gun but couldn’t carry it in her purse until January 1, 1996, when Texas became the 28th state to allow potential victims to carry concealed weapons. She had a gun, but when she and her parents entered a restaurant in Killeen in 1991, the then Miss Gratia had to leave it in her car. She says that if she had carried the gun in with her, if she had been allowed to carry a concealed weapon, she could have and would have blown away the man who was going to kill her parents and 21 other people that day.

Ironically, if Mayor Richard Daley, who goes nowhere in this city without armed security, had anything to do with it, 81-year-old Chicago resident Bruno Kosinski would not have been carrying the concealed weapon that just possibly saved his life when two teenage thugs accosted him on December 8, 1998, demanding money, complaining he hadn’t given them enough, saying “Give me your money or else.”

Many are not as lucky as Mr. Kosinski, winding up in the city morgue, unknown and unmourned by those who would deny potential victims such as Mr. Kosinski the legitimate right to self-defense he exercised. Kosinski’s action is just one of the 2.5 million times each year that Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck says law-abiding citizens successfully use handguns in defense of themselves, their families, and, yes, their children. Mr. Kosinski, not seeing any of Bill Clinton’s 100,000 cops around and realizing it was too early for a game of midnight basketball, actually fired his weapon and wounded one of his attackers.

Police spokesman Cesar Guzman, explaining why Kosinski was not charged with carrying a concealed weapon, said: “The victim’s age, the fact that the gun was registered, and he was the victim of a crime were taken into account.” Of course, if he was unarmed and dead he wouldn’t be charged either. As 13th District Commander Helen DeWitte noted: “They picked on the wrong man.” Exactly. An armed man.

If Governor Ryan wanted to improve public safety, he would push to make Illinois a right-to-carry state. Thirty-one other states have right-to-carry laws. One hundred twenty-seven million Americans–nearly half the U.S. population, including 60 percent of handgun owners–live in right-to-carry states. Twenty-two states have adopted right-to-carry laws since the mid-1980s; 19 states since 1995.

It should be illegal for felons to carry guns. Separate and severe penalties should be imposed for the possession or use of a gun in a crime. But for governors and mayors who travel nowhere without armed security to want to imprison the corner grocer for a lapse in paperwork is silly and hypocritical.

Daniel John Sobieski

S. Monitor