CHICAGO (AP) - It's the Windy City, not Dodge City,
say Chicagoans who want to repeal a Wild West-era law letting
city aldermen carry guns and make arrests.
The law designating aldermen as conservators of the peace
has been under fire since witnesses said an alderman pulled
a snub-nosed pistol from her purse during a stormy community
meeting last week.
"It's insane," said State Rep. Lee Preston, a Chicago
Democrat, at a City Hall news conference Thursday. "This
is supposed to be a world-class city, not Dodge City. What
we need are more policeman, not gun-toting aldermen. Chicago
is becoming a laughingstock."
Preston plans to introduce legislation repealing the current
law, which he said was adopted in 1872. The law grants Chicago's
aldermen a badge and the authority to make arrests.
Preston said there have been numerous incidents involving
gun-wielding aldermen, but he knew of none that resulted
in injury. At least four aldermen recently admitted they
carried guns occasionally.
The proposed legislation was prompted by an incident last
week involving Alderman Dorothy Tillman.
She was attending a ward remap meeting when a shoving match
erupted. She reached into her purse and pulled out a .38-caliber,
snub-nosed, nickel-plated pistol, said Ballard Powell, a
prison supervisor who attended the meeting.
Tillman has not commented on the incident, and did not return
phone calls to her office Thursday.
Some aldermen said they carry weapons in self-defense.
"When we're in public life, we're always being harassed
by someone who doesn't like our decisions, and I've had
my life threatened," said Alderman Bernie Hansen, a former
Cook County sheriff's deputy who said he has carried a gun
and made several arrests as an alderman.
Hansen also said it's less expensive for him to carry a
weapon than to have police assigned to guard him. He said
that "if you have an alderman who knows what to do and
how to handle a gun, sometimes that's advisable."
"If a congressman, the governor or the president gets a
death threat, they can't go out and get a gun. Aldermen
can. It's ludicrous," Preston said.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a longtime handgun control
advocate, supports Preston's measure, spokeswoman Avis LaVelle said.
The most famous Chicago politician to get in trouble with
a gun was Alderman Mathias "Paddy" Bauler, who was acquitted
in 1934 of shooting two police officers attempting to enter
a private party at a tavern he owned.
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