My husband, Morrie Seeskin, and I worked hard as part of the steering committee for handgun control that brought the handgun ban to Oak Park. Morrie went to the Supreme Court to hear the arguments March 2. I couldn’t disagree more with Virginia Seuffert’s recent column in Viewpoints. [Fiddling while the economy burns Oak Parkers, Viewpoints, March 3]
Oak Park has done the right thing for us as citizens of this community in joining Chicago to fight to keep our ban. Whether or not we are successful at the Supreme Court, and I agree that our prospects there seem bleak, the citizens of Oak Park voted to have a ban on handguns in our village. This ban was not the whim of some small group of people in village government. This was a vote with approximately 60 percent of the voters saying that a ban would be good for the village. That vote was taken after a hard-fought campaign in which the National Rifle Association poured money and workers into the village from all over the country.
Our citizens voted for it because a handgun ban saves lives. The research that Morrie did on handgun usage in the village during the 10 years immediately preceding the campaign of 1984 showed that handguns had not been used to defend citizens against criminals in our village. Guns had been used against spouses in domestic violence situations. They had been used by children to accidentally injure themselves or others, and large numbers had been stolen from homes to supply criminals with their weapons.
A handgun ban saves lives when it offers police the opportunity to stop someone who is carrying a gun, and to prevent the crime that is about to happen. Homes without guns are safer for children and for anyone who has ever lost his or her temper or felt depressed.
We voted to ban handguns because we believe that a community without handguns is a safer community. Since the ban was enacted through 2008, the crime rate in Oak Park per 100,000 people has decreased by 46.5 percent, according to documents in the case. Further, the crime rate for burglary and breaking-and-entering in the same timeframe has decreased by 60.2 percent. I like those numbers.
Virginia Seuffert begrudges the money spent to defend our ban. Where is her respect for the citizens who voted for this ban? Democracy demands that we defend our ban. The cost of defense, I understand, has been minimal, as Chicago did the heavy lifting on this one, and much of the legal work was done pro bono. Seuffert wasn’t here when the vote was taken. She really ought to do a better job of researching her facts before attacking our right and obligation to democratically govern our village.
Eileen Fein is a lawyer who lives and works in Oak Park, having moved to the village in 1977. She and her husband were part of the 12-member Oak Park Citizens for Handgun Control steering committee, which asked the village board to ban handguns in 1984. She unsuccessfully ran for village trustee in 2003.