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Meet Otis McDonald: The Man Behind the SCOTUS Chicago Gun Case

"I just got the feeling that I'm on my own."

9:50 AM, Mar 2, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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He's perhaps an unlikely plaintiff in a challenge to Chicago's hand gun ban before the Supreme Court this week, but the 76-year-old South Side Democrat says his right to defend himself isn't about party.

"I live and think like a human being, concerned for others as I am myself," he told Fox News.

After years of neighborhood-watch meetings that changed nothing, a frustrated McDonald drove 200 miles to a gun-rights rally in Illinois' capital. It was there that someone put him in touch with the Virginia attorney arguing this case.

The challenge to Chicago's ban on the sale and possession of handguns is the next step in a wave of challenges to state and city gun laws spawned by the Supreme Court's landmark 2008 decision in Heller, which struck down a Washington, D.C. handgun ban and acknowledged the 2nd Amendment an individual right. Because Washington is a federal district, the Court now must decide if state and local bans on guns can stand.

The Court is expected to rule in favor of the plaintiffs, which will send gun-control advocates into a tizzy about the fate of the Union. But in reading the stories of the Chicago plaintiffs,  it's hard to turn these earnest seekers of self-defense into six-shooting, redneck caricatures.

McDonald is determined to protect himself against the criminals outside his door:

He came to Chicago from Louisiana when he was 17, as part of the Great Migration of blacks. He worked his way up from a janitor to a maintenance engineer, a good job that allowed him and his wife to buy a house on the city's far South Side in 1972, where they raised their family.

In recent years, McDonald, now a grandfather, has watched the neighborhood deteriorate, the quiet nights he once enjoyed replaced by the sound of gunfire, drunken fights and shattering liquor bottles.

Three times, he says, his house has been broken into — once the front door was wide open and the burglars still out front when his wife and daughter came home from church. A few years ago, he called police to report gunfire, only to be confronted by a man who told him he'd heard about that call and threatened to kill him.

"I just got the feeling that I'm on my own," said McDonald. "The fact is that so many people my age have worked hard all their life, getting a nice place for themselves to live in ... and having one (handgun) would make us feel a lot more comfortable."

A young couple, Colleen and David Lawson, had a close call with intruders, too:

For the Lawsons, it stemmed from a scare in 2006, when Colleen Lawson was home alone with the flu and three men tried to jimmy open her back door. They ran off when they saw her through a window.

''That's how close they were to getting in,'' said Lawson, 51.

The Lawsons believe a handgun would allow them to protect their family and give them the kind of peace of mind Colleen Lawson had as a child, when she knew her grandmother kept a pistol in her apron.

''I knew without any doubt my grandmother would be able protect us,'' she said. ''I can't say that to my children.''

The fourth plaintiff, Adam Orlov, is a former police officer who knows well that gun laws only keep guns out of the hands of those who follow the law:

"The law only prohibits the actions of those who are law-abiding," said Orlov, 40. "The more law-abiding the more likely you are to be vulnerable to the activities of criminals."

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