If government can curb our rights to fight a virus, then why not to fight gun violence?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces a shelter-in-place order to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as Mayor Lori Lightfoot looks on. | AP

If we can fight a war against an enemy we can’t see or touch, we certainly could use draconian measures to fight the gun violence in our neighborhoods as well.

I am just amazed how quickly the world changed.

Up to this point, the biggest threat many of us have faced was gun violence.

And despite the tens of thousands of innocent adults and children killed each year by guns in this country, no number of deaths has been enough to move government to take the drastic measures now being taken to stop a deadly virus.

A month ago, we couldn’t imagine that schools, restaurants, bars and businesses would be shut down until further notice.

But Gov. J. B. Pritzker took the unprecedented action in Illinois on Friday of ordering all of us to “shelter in place” as of Saturday.

The threat of effectively being quarantined even for the initial 14 days was enough to send hordes of people running to the grocery stores to stock up on toilet paper.

As one of my daughters put it, “People are acting like the zombies are coming.”

It didn’t take mass rallies to convince elected officials — Democrats and Republicans — that they would have to take draconian measures for lives to be saved.

Everyone is hammering at the message that this deadly virus can be overcome if we all follow the recommended guidelines that include constant hand-washing, social distancing and that thing we learned in kindergarten — covering our mouths when we cough.

The fight to stop a virus that already has killed thousands worldwide has revealed some good, some bad and some really bad behaviors on our parts.

I got caught up in the hysteria when I went to my local supermarket and saw people pushing shopping carts filled with toilet paper, paper towels and disinfectant wipes.

And that wasn’t just happening in Chicago.

Soon after the mayor and governor announced school closures, a close friend was hospitalized in the Orlando area with a wound infection. A senior with a host of underlying medical conditions, she is most at risk for the virus.

So, on Wednesday, I was at Midway Airport boarding one of the few flights that wasn’t canceled after the air-traffic control tower there was shut down because employees had tested positive for the virus.

While this crisis has shaken all of us, I could get used to social distancing.

I was overjoyed no one was breathing down my neck while I used the kiosk and went through security.

And while the closings of schools, businesses, churches and entertainment venues has put us on edge, I’m afraid the “shelter-in-place” order Pritzker issued will only add to the anxiety.

In Orlando, it isn’t just toilet paper disappearing from shelves; it’s also bullets and guns.

And my friend saw firsthand the stress this crisis is having on the healthcare system.

“There are nurses walking around with no masks on, putting other healthcare workers at risk. Tempers are flaring,” she told me when I came to take her home.

For seniors in her situation, this is a real nightmare. Because of coronavirus, home healthcare services basically have stopped, and non-emergency doctor’s appointments are being canceled.

Rather than go to a rehabilitation facility, some seniors are taking their chances at home.

Seemingly overnight, Americans are being denied the right to assembly, to travel, to attend church and school and to entertain themselves in an effort to save lives.

Similarly drastic measures could be used to curb the gun epidemic that claims lives every day.

Don’t take this wrong.

I am taking precautions and following the CDC guidelines, and you should, too. I’m also praying I make it back to my own home before domestic air travel is canceled.

But I am more afraid of walking the dog early in the morning or late at night in a neighborhood plagued by guns.

I’m more afraid someone will fire a gun on the expressway just for the heck of it and take a life.

And I’m more afraid that a gun will fall into the wrong hands.

If we can fight a war against an enemy we can’t see or touch, we certainly could use draconian measures to fight the gun violence in our schools, in our workplaces and on our streets.


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