Abi Maldonado wants to carry a gun because he’s regularly sent to high-crime neighborhoods to fix broken automated teller machines. “The money is insured; I don’t care about the money, I just want to go home, that’s pretty much want it comes down to,” he said.
Jay Kinzie wants to be prepared, just in case his martial arts skills aren’t enough to fend off anyone who’d choose to do him harm.
“When I think of carrying a firearm, to me, it’s an insurance policy; it’s like a fire extinguisher, a spare tire or a smoke detector,” he said.
Retiree Ray Diaz, wants to see his grandkids grow up and wouldn’t hesitate to grab a bottle, stick or rock to fight off anyone on the street who might have other plans.
“But a gun is a better option,” he said.
The Sun-Times asked people who have applied or plan to apply for concealed carry permits why they want to carry a handgun.
While the specific reasons are as varied as the Chicago area’s diverse population, protection — not surprisingly — was the common theme.
“People want to be able to defend themselves,” said Mike Elrod, who founded Illinois Gun Owners Rights, formerly known as Pass Conceal Carry Illinois.
Protecting self and family is a refrain echoed by the 34,000 plus people who follow the group’s Facebook page.
For some, it’s protection from an abstract evildoer. For others, the threat is more immediate and sinister.
According to recent state statistics, of all 102 Illinois counties, Cook County, the state’s most populous, had the lowest per capita concealed carry applications, with a rate of applications of 10.2 for every 10,000 residents. But because of its size — 5.19 million people — Cook had the most concealed carry applications of any county, tallying 5,305 of the state’s more than 23,000 total applicants. Interest is greater in collar counties and Downstate.
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Peter Besenhofer, 47, worries that the gasoline tanker truck he drives to construction sites across the city and suburbs, sometimes carrying loads worth nearly $30,000, could make him a target.
“I don’t want to have to shoot anybody. Just showing a firearm can defuse so many situations. That’s one thing the statistics can never show you, because those instances never get reported,” said Besenhofer, who lives in Naperville.
He recalled one instance in the mid-1980s when he wished he had been carrying a gun.
“I was on my motorcycle and got turned around a bit and ended up at a stoplight right near Cabrini-Green. And people began looking at me and coming out of the woodwork like they were gonna jump me,” said Besenhofer, who sped away.
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For 32-year old Amy, the threat has a face: her ex-husband, who she says would regularly beat her.
“With his mentality, you never know what he’s capable of,” said Amy, who lives in Kankakee County and asked that her last name not be published. “He recently sent out his application to get his permit. I fear that it will be approved.
“Getting my permit will be the only thing that will make me feel safe knowing that he will be carrying a firearm. I hope to never need it, but the security it will provide me is worth everything.”
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Maldonado, 34, wants to carry a gun because he’s tired of constantly looking over his shoulder while fixing ATMs.
“I would rather have [a gun on me],” he said. “My back is exposed while I’m working on the machine, a few of them have mirrors, so I can see what’s going on behind me, but I’m constantly looking over my shoulder.”
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Kinzie, 24, who works at a gun shop, sees a gun as a last option if his martial arts skills aren’t enough. “It’s a piece of equipment you don’t necessarily need all the time, but it’s something you want to have on you if the need arises.”
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Auto mechanic Justin Wilke, 27, works late nights alone at an Albany Park repair shop and fears the pocketknife he carries isn’t a suitable deterrent.
“It’d give me peace of mind to feel a little bit safer,” said Wilke, who lives in DuPage County and has a 4-year-old daughter.
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Diaz, 56, a retired AT&T worker who lives near Lane Tech High School on the Northwest Side, was jumped by gang members when he was a young man. “The odds are against you in the streets. I don’t want to be one of these victims,” he said. “I’m not gonna hesitate to shoot if I know I’m gonna get hurt or killed. I’ll deal with the police, the courts, whatever, but I want to live, that’s the main thing.”
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Allen Young, a former cable TV technician who’s looking for a new career — in part because a cable guy was shot recently — wants to be able to protect his family from the violence that regularly erupts near his Roseland neighborhood home.
Young, 31, boiled the potential split-second decision to shoot down to this: “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6,” meaning he’d rather go before a jury for taking a life than end up in a casket for not. A few weeks ago, a man was shot in the head around the corner from his home.
“If I hear something around here or see something, I will call the police, but that’s all you can do. You can’t go out there and be a vigilante and just start shooting people,” said Young, who noted that police often arrive late.
“Once you hear screaming, you ain’t gonna run down there if you ain’t got nothing on you. You don’t know what’s going on.”
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For Mark Karadimos, 46, who lives in Brookfield and works as a math teacher in the western suburbs, getting a concealed carry permit is simply a matter of exercising his Second Amendment rights.
“I don’t know if I’m ever going to run into a situation where I need it, but, you know, I watch the news and there are situations where people are minding their own business, they’re trying to lead fulfilling, nice lives, and unfortunately they encounter ne’er-do-wells who are not interested in other people’s safety.”
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Mary Neahaus, 50, is applying for a concealed carry permit because she wants to better acclimate herself with the guns her husband keeps locked in their Skokie home.
“Whether I will carry a gun ever on myself, I would have to say at this point it would be no, but if there should come a point where I felt I needed to, then I know I have done all the things I need to do to do it safely,” Neahaus said during a break from a mandatory concealed carry class she recently attended at Conceal Carry Chicago on the Northwest Side.
“I’m not very comfortable around guns. I’d like to learn how to check if the safety is on, how to check if a gun is loaded, and some of the basic safety rules for using guns or even being around guns.”
Contemplating the act of taking a life prompted Neahaus to say: “Perhaps I could disable someone and not have to actually kill them. That would be my hope and prayer.”