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In the aftermath of a decision to prosecute a homeowner who shot an intruder, a feisty crowd of 200 citizens packed a town board meeting to voice opposition to a local ban on possession of handguns.
Hale DeMar, of the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, protected his family Dec. 29 by shooting Morio Billings, who is accused of entering the DeMar home twice within 24 hours, the Chicago Tribune reported.
But DeMar was charged with violating a local ordinance banning possession of handguns and breaking a state law by failing to renew his Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification card. He faces up to a year in jail, a $2,500 fine or court supervision or probation if convicted on the charge of owning a handgun without a valid firearms card. The village’s handgun ordinance carries a separate fine of up to $750.
He is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 6 to face both charges.
On Tuesday night, many at the meeting of the Wilmette Village Board booed and jeered when trustees expressed support for the ban, the Chicago paper said. Several audience members loudly emphasized the words, “And justice for all,” during the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Wilmette Police Chief George Carpenter defended the handgun ban.
“My experience is handguns create a hazard in the home,” he told the crowd, according to the Tribune. “My experience is that handguns are far more likely to be stolen, to be used or threatened to be used in domestic situations, or to be used or threatened to be used in suicides.”
Wilmette resident Jim Szczepanik, 51, was one of many gun-rights advocates who argued no homeowner should be punished for defending his family.
“My Plan A is to call 911 and keep the family upstairs,” he said, according to the Chicago paper. “But my Plan B is to have a loaded firearm and put a bullet in the intruder.”
Another resident, Ralf Seiffe, called it “a matter of freedom.”
Trustee Bernard Michna was among the minority who defended the ban.
“There could have been an outcome much more bleak for that family if more shots had been fired,” Michna said, according to the Tribune. “I think it’s close to unanimous there will be no change in the handgun ordinance.”
DeMar said he had just tucked his two children into bed at about 10:30 p.m. when his home security alarm sounded, the Tribune reported. He found Billings in the kitchen and shot him four times, striking his left shoulder and left calf.
Prosecutors say Billings crashed through the home’s front window after he was shot then drove himself to the hospital in the family’s SUV, which he had stolen the night before.
Billings, convicted last year of a similar home burglary in an affluent Minneapolis suburb, is now in the Cook County Jail with bail set at $3 million.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office decided not to file criminal charges against DeMar after determining he acted in self-defense, the Tribune said.
Carpenter said he could not condemn DeMar’s actions, because the homeowner was in a “situation where he did what he thought was appropriate.” But the police chief advised residents facing a similar situation to keep the family together, call 911 and not confront the intruder.
“The parent is the last line of defense for the family until the police arrive,” Carpenter said, according to the Tribune.
The paper noted the city of Chicago and a number of other municipalities in the area also ban possession of handguns.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, told the Chicago daily he believes handgun bans are outrageous.
“The right to self-defense is the right that all creatures on this Earth have, including Wilmette,” he said. “What they do is they make the citizens in these villages and towns fair game.”