Saturday, July 02, 2005


Hale DeMar, a 54-year-old restaurateur who had recently separated from his wife but was watching their two children that night, was asleep upstairs when Billings entered his kitchen. DeMar had been unable to get his locks changed on short notice after the previous night�s burglary (he would later be accused of not trying hard enough), but he had activated the security system. He had also put six hollow-point rounds into his Smith & Wesson .38 Special and placed it under his bed. It was one of two handguns he�d owned for more than 20 years without loading them; until the burglary he�d kept them locked in a safe, still in their original packaging.

Around 10:30 p.m. DeMar was awakened by the security system, which indicated a kitchen-door entry. Relying on the system to contact police, he grabbed the .38 and went downstairs. Months later, Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn would call DeMar�who is five feet, nine inches tall and weighs 140 pounds�a �suburban cowboy.� Wilmette Chief of Police George E. Carpenter would say he put himself at risk �unnecessarily, on multiple levels.�

DeMar faced more than second-guessing after the break-in. He was charged with violating Wilmette�s handgun ban, an offense that carries a $750 fine. His attempt to challenge the fine in court shows how difficult it can be to assert a right to armed self-defense in the United States, despite an explicit constitutional guarantee that would seem to preclude gun laws like Wilmette�s. Illinois courts have been so hostile to this right that DeMar�s lawyer never cited the Second Amendment in his arguments, relying instead on other, tangentially related constitutional provisions. Ultimately it was the state legislature rather than the courts that prevented DeMar from being punished for daring to protect himself and his family.

When he got downstairs, DeMar saw a man in his dark family room. Since he �didn�t see any flesh,� he thought the intruder was masked. He was right. From the kitchen, DeMar fired two shots. One struck Billings in the upper left arm. Now both men wanted the same thing: Billings out of DeMar�s house. Billings ran, heading through the family room, dining room, and living room. He passed a door leading outside but didn�t go through it. �I don�t know,� he�d later say. �I guess I should�ve. I just wanted to get the fuck out.� Billings came to a hallway connecting the kitchen, front door, living room, and stairs. DeMar fired two more shots, one of which dug into Billings� left leg. Billings broke a living room window, climbed through, and ran westward through the dark. DeMar went back to his bedroom. Trembling, he called the police.

Arriving at DeMar�s house to find him on the phone with their department, the police took both of his guns. They came across several bullet holes, a black and tan baseball cap, a �skull cap/dew [sic] rag,� and blood. At the property on Laurel Avenue through which Billings had driven they found broken pieces of plastic from the SUV�s passenger-side mirror housing. At St. Francis Hospital were the rest of the vehicle and the offender. Billings had parked the SUV across a sidewalk near the hospital, gotten out, and collapsed; staff had taken him inside. In August 2004 he�d receive a seven-year prison sentence.

Two days after the break-in, the Cook County state�s attorney�s office released a statement declaring DeMar�s actions self-defense. But Illinois requires gun owners to keep a firearm owners� identification card, and DeMar�s had expired in 2000. On January 8, 2004, he was charged with that violation, which carries a maximum penalty of a $2,500 fine and a year in jail. Prosecutors dropped the charges about a month later, saying they did not want to �revictimize� DeMar for a �lapse.�

But the Village of Wilmette fined DeMar $750 for disobeying its handgun ban. �Our function is not to make ordinances but to enforce them,� says Brian King, deputy chief of operations at the Wilmette Police Department. �The individual told us he was knowingly in violation of the ordinance for a long time. If you don�t enforce it in that case, it makes it impossible to enforce it for anybody else.� Chief Carpenter acknowledges that the department could have made an exception in light of the circumstances. �There is discretion involved,� he says, �but we felt it was appropriate in this case.� ...

DeMar explains his actions this way: �I suppose some would have grabbed their children and cowered in their bedroom�praying that the police would get there in time to stop the criminal from climbing the stairs and confronting the family in a bedroom, trembling, dreading the sound of the door being kicked in. That�s not the fear I wanted my children to experience, and it is not the cowardly act that I want my children to remember me by.�

More here

Stupid kid: "A 16-year-old was hospitalized Thursday after being shot by his neighbor. Police said it happened during an alleged home burglary on McDowell Park Circle in Jackson at about 9 a.m. Family members identified the teen as Richard McCoy. He's being treated at Central Mississippi Medical Center for a gunshot wound to the torso. Mark Nelson, 49, told police he heard rustling at his back door, then saw a man with his face covered and a knife in his hand standing in the hallway. Nelson said he told the man to leave, but the man moved toward him. That's when Nelson said he fired the shot. Police said McCoy ran back to his home and his mother called police. News of the shooting surprised McCoy's uncle, who said the teen had never been in trouble. "It's summertime, though," he said. "Kids don't have nothing to do -- they get into all kinds of stuff. But as far as I know, he was a good kid." Officers took Nelson downtown for questioning but are not planning to file any charges. Detectives found a knife in the house, and a white T-shirt they believe was used as the mask in Nelson's back yard".

PATRIOT Act wants your guns: "The Patriot Act is supposed to protect the United States from terrorists. Unfortunately, we don't always know how the term 'terrorist' will be defined. History shows that totalitarian governments fear an armed populace and are willing to take a pre-emptive strike at such a populace. Armed members of the populace who oppose a tyrannical government could easily be labeled as 'terrorists.' One can't help but wonder why this bill was named the 'Patriot Act' rather than the 'Anti-Terrorism Act.' Let's hope the bill wasn't actually intended to apply to Patriots. Please call your national legislators and clearly voice your opposition to S. 1266."

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