April 11, 2013
Illinois — where politicians force law-abiding citizens to bring a bat to a gunfight.
An amazing video released Wednesday that shows a Chicago shopkeeper fighting for his life should be a commercial for Second Amendment rights in this, the only state that doesn't allow citizens to carry a concealed handgun for protection.
The video, posted by the Tribune's Breaking News Center, shows in vivid and frightening detail how armed thugs robbed a gift and sports store Tuesday in the Logan Square neighborhood.
You can see the gunman demand the money. You see the store owner's brother-in-law with a gun to his head. You see the shots being fired, and the bat wielded by a wounded and desperate Luis Quizhpe, the 62-year-old proprietor who fought for his life.
"This video really shook me up, seeing that poor man fight for his life," said Valinda Rowe, a spokesman for the Illinois Carry gun-rights group. A federal court has ruled that Illinois must rewrite its law to allow some sort of concealed carry, but Chicago Democrats in Springfield are trying to make that all but impossible.
"There are situations in the city where law-abiding people are at the mercy of thugs," she said. "And the legislators from Chicago are trying to stop folks from protecting themselves: What are they thinking?
"All this gentleman had is a baseball bat. He's totally at their mercy. What we've got is an emboldened criminal element because they know people in Chicago aren't protected."
But the politicians are protected. The governor and mayor and aldermen and other pols have phalanxes of taxpayer-subsidized bodyguards. Taxpayers like Mr. Quizhpe don't count.
On Wednesday we called Roderick Drew, spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Law Department, who told us that store owners are prohibited from carrying handguns.
"A business owner can register a long gun (rifle or shotgun) for their fixed place of business, but it has to stay on the premises," Drew said. "The business owner cannot register or bring a handgun to his place of business. The only place a person can lawfully have a handgun is the home."
And then only if they have a state-issued firearm owner's identification card and a special permit from City Hall. That's the paperwork. But business owners don't want to complain about the rules and aggravate City Hall. Their business can be crushed by the weight of it.
So Luis Quizhpe, an Ecuadorean immigrant, didn't have a gun when they came for him Tuesday afternoon.
"I thought it was a toy, but what made me frightened and really made me angry was when they grabbed my brother-in-law by the neck and they were pointing the gun at him," Quizhpe told reporter Carlos Sadovi. "That's when my blood boiled over."
He owns Quizhpe's Gifts and Sports, in the 2200 block of North Western Avenue, and Sadovi interviewed him Wednesday at a North Side hospital. Sadovi's account was newswriting as good as it gets.
"It was like the Fourth of July," Quizhpe said. "Pow, pow, pow." He remembered one of the robbers screaming Quizhpe's death warrant.
"Then he was yelling … 'Kill the mother (deleted)!' God didn't permit me to go yet. There must be a reason, for all the shots he fired."
There were 10 shell casings on the ground. He's lucky to be alive.
If we didn't have a video, we'd have to imagine what happened and most likely we'd have gotten it wrong. We wouldn't have seen one robber asking for a tissue to blow his nose, and being given one seconds before his accomplice pulled the gun.
We would have missed Quizhpe lashing out with that bat, as if it were a sword, trying to knock the gun from the robber's hand. And then another shot was fired, and Quizhpe stopped fencing and started swinging, cracking the man in the face, in the head, swinging to survive.
If he had been killed, you'd never have seen the video. Homicide detectives would have swooped it up as evidence. It would have been a story that disappeared, another statistic in the city.
Anti-gun policy wonks talk in abstract terms. But it's not abstract for victims. It's not abstract for Quizhpe. And it wasn't abstract for Michael Kozel, 57, who for 20 years owned a muffler shop in the Gage Park neighborhood. On Jan. 3 he was shot dead in the back by robbers, one of the 42 homicides that month. Chicago has already forgotten his name.
I grew up helping out in my family's small business, but my father didn't want a gun at our store. He'd spent years in war; he knew what could happen. And he wasn't a mayor or an alderman.
One day my Aunt Fannie, a cashier in her 70s, had a gun stuck into her face. She gave up the cash.
One of my uncles owned another store on the South Side. A street gang came in with fire to burn it down. He pulled a gun and one of the thugs said: Kill me.
My uncle didn't want to kill anyone. The extortionists knew it and dragged him into the meat cooler. Only the pleading of a cashier from the neighborhood saved him. My uncle left the business and never returned. He later opened a place in the suburbs.
Quizhpe said he's considering selling the store his family has run for decades.
"I've been thinking about selling everything off and changing my business," he said. "The reality is, with everything going on, it's difficult to put myself and my family in danger."
The politicians don't have to run. They're protected.
Only the law-abiding have to run in Illinois.
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