In Chicago, Some Want More Guns, Not Less

Chicago residents challenge gun ban, saying they need to protect themselves.

CHICAGO, June 28, 2008— -- In too many Chicago neighborhoods, gun violence rules the block. And some say the time has come to fight fire power with fire power.

"I need a handgun in my home," said Chicago resident Colleen Lawson. "It comes down to an issue of life or death."

In fact, Lawson and her husband do own a handgun. But because of Chicago's ban on handguns, it's illegal to keep it in their home. The weapon was locked up outside the city when three men recently broke into their house.

Lawson was unharmed, but she says the incident turned her into a critic of the city's gun ban.

"It makes me feel as though I'm relatively helpless to keep my promise to my children to be able to protect them," Lawson said.

Minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Washington, D.C.'s gun ban on Thursday, Lawson and her husband joined others in a lawsuit challenging Chicago's gun ordinance, which has been in place since 1982.

Chicago's mayor said changing the law would be disastrous.

"Why don't we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West? You have a gun, and I have a gun. We'll settle it on the streets," Mayor Richard Daley said.

But many say a number of Chicago neighborhoods already resemble the Wild West. In this city, it's been an epic year for violence. Chicago's murder rate is up a startling 13 percent. Police have responded to 27,000 reports of "shots fired," an average of one every 10 minutes.

Too often, the victims have been young and innocent.

Starkeisha Reed was just 14 when she was killed in her living room by a stray bullet. Her friends and family say she was a gifted student with dreams of becoming a doctor.

"It doesn't make sense that my life would be shattered in that moment because someone didn't know how to resolve a conflict," said Denise Reed, Starkeisha's mother.

Since September, violence on Chicago streets has claimed the lives of nearly 30 Chicago public school students. That's on top of the more than two dozen kids killed during the previous school year. Administrators say there are simply too many illegal guns in too many hands.

"We value our right to bear arms more than we value our children," said Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan. "There's something absolutely unbelievably wrong about that."

Police have stepped up their patrols, especially on weekends when the violence has been at its worst. And residents and community activists have taken to the streets to raise awareness about the killing.

But the violence in Chicago continues, and some believe the answer lies in more guns, not fewer.

"I think criminals will think twice before breaking into someone's home and not knowing if there's someone in that residence who's willing and able to defend themselves," Lawson said.

These dueling solutions to the violence will now be considered by the courts.