CHICAGO – The nation's murder capital has a Second Amendment vigilante in its midst and he's got the city of Chicago up in arms over handgun control.
John Birch heads Concealed Carry, Inc., a gun rights group that is awarding one handgun per month to a resident of Chicago, a city that bans handguns.
"I would feel terrible if someone needed a gun and I didn't give him one, and they ended up dead," Birch said.
The "winner" of the handgun lottery must make a compelling case in a written essay. Awards only go to people who are at least 21-years-old, have had a background check, and have completed a firearms training course.
Birch — no relation to the namesake of the anti-Communist organization — considers his campaign a lifesaving fight against what he calls an unconstitutional law.
"This is a moral battle, and I am willing to use every tool available," he said.
City of Chicago Attorney Mara Georges said this is not the first time Birch has flouted Chicago's handgun ban and the city is considering civil and criminal action against him.
"The laws are stated very clearly and so, if he's going to violate the law, we are going to have to very, very fiercely protect our laws," Georges said.
A ban on handguns in Chicago has been in place since 1982. Last year, Chicago suffered 676 homicides, three-quarters of which were gun-related. Georges said the numbers of murders would go down if the number of people with arms decreased, a goal Birch is working against.
"I think he is encouraging violence. I think he is encouraging civil disobedience. I think he's encouraging people to break the law," she said.
But Birch says Chicagoans are dying because they are not armed, and a recent recipient of the Concealed Carry, Inc. giveaway said he's willing to risk arrest in order to be safe.
"I'm entitled to defend myself. I think this law is a life or death matter," said the man, who asked not to be identified.
Penalties for breaking Chicago's handgun ban are severe, with offenders facing up to six months in jail. But the man with the new gift from Birch said that risk is a price worth paying.
"I would rather survive and have to go up against a court case than be buried and not have any chance whatsoever."