It is easy to hate guns. There’s not much about them to love — except when they save an innocent life.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed every law-abiding American’s right to own a firearm, most anti-gun people have never quite understood why anyone would want to walk around with one.

Perhaps it was because they didn’t really want to understand it. On this politically polarizing issue, everyone has taken sides. People believe what they choose to believe about firearms, and they block out what anyone on the other side has to say.

Most of us have been guilty of that at one time or another.

But a shooting happened early Tuesday at a bus stop on the Far South Side of Chicago that might prompt us to look at guns in a new light. I, too, am a public transportation rider. That could have been me waiting on a bus that morning. It could have been anyone.

Video from a surveillance camera posted outside a store nearby shows a young woman standing underneath a bus shelter shortly before 6 a.m., apparently on her way to work.

The video shows her waiting unsuspectingly for the bus to arrive. Then, for some reason, the camera stops recording. When it resumes, a young man is seen running away and the young woman getting up off the ground.

Nineteen-year-old Laavion Goings Jr. pulled a gun and tried to rob the woman, authorities said. There was a struggle. But she managed to pull out her own .38-caliber handgun and shoot him in the chest. Goings ran home a few blocks away and collapsed in the stairwell of his building. He died an hour later at a hospital.

According to authorities, the shooter was a 25-year-old woman. And lucky for her, she had a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Illinois.

When she obtained the license, it is unlikely that the woman ever thought she’d really have to use it, though she lives in a neighborhood where residents say such holdups are common. She probably never fathomed that she would end up shooting a teenager to death either. That is the last thing most people would ever want to do.

But in this case, she apparently had no choice. That’s how the concealed carry law is supposed to work.

I have never doubted that the majority of people who go through the trouble of obtaining a license to legally carry a firearm in Illinois are decent and responsible. And in neighborhoods where violence is rampant, it makes good sense.

Years of covering Illinois gun issues gave me a deep level of understanding — and respect — for the laws, even though I don’t agree with all of them.

Illinois entered, kicking and screaming, into agreements to afford citizens their Second Amendment rights in 2013. In a city where there are so many killings involving illegal guns, the reluctance is understandable.

Every illegal gun used on the streets was once a legal gun. It is the responsibility of the legal gun-owners to ensure that their weapons remain only in the hands of those they were intended for.

In Chicago, we know that doesn’t always happen. We also know that not every concealed carry license-holder who has shot someone was right to fire the weapon. Our laws aren’t perfect in Illinois, but they are among the best around.

On that Far South Side street Tuesday morning, there was a battle between a legal gun and an illegal gun — between a gun owner who had undergone a background check and 16 hours of training and someone who wasn’t supposed to have a firearm.

Goings had multiple arrests, mostly for drug charges, but also for attacking two police officials during a narcotics raid in Englewood. In October, six counts of aggravated battery to a peace officer were dropped after he pleaded guilty to a drug charge. He was on probation at the time he was killed.

No one should be happy when a teenager is killed, regardless of how imperfect he was. But in this case, it is difficult to feel sorry for Goings.

In this battle of good versus evil, he was the villain and she is the hero. We applaud her for refusing to become yet another innocent victim of Chicago’s gun violence.

It is possible that the shooting will haunt this young woman emotionally for a very long time. Killing someone, regardless of the circumstances, is not easy for most people. It is likely that she already has shed many tears over taking a young man’s life. When the Chicago Tribune contacted her Wednesday, she didn’t want to talk about it.

Perhaps one day, she will know that there is no guilt in saving your own life. And perhaps the rest of us will stop judging those so harshly who feel they must carry a legal gun to do so.

Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, where this first appeared.

 

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

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