What are we to make of it when a veteran judge thinks laws are mere inconveniences that he can ignore?
More to the point, what are the accused criminals who stand before him to think?
On July 3, surveillance video recorded Cook County Judge Joseph Claps dropping a handgun from a jacket he was carrying over his arm in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California — a place where firearms are prohibited for obvious reasons.
The video shows Claps nonchalantly bending over to pick up the gun, which is believed to have been loaded, and continuing on his way.
And the sheriff’s deputies who saw the gun did not stop him.
Maybe we’re cynics, but we’re pretty sure that if an ordinary person had dropped a gun in a big city courthouse full of accused criminals, angry victims and the like, that person would have been handcuffed and arrested on the spot.
If the gun had discharged when it hit the floor, as happened with a dancing off-duty FBI agent earlier this month at a Denver bar, there could have been pandemonium.
Judge Claps had a license to carry a concealed weapon and a Firearm Owners Identification card, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office. But as a judge, he knew or should have known that his black robe doesn’t put him above the law.
Cara Smith, chief policy officer for Sheriff Tom Dart, said the deputies on duty thought the prohibition against guns in the courthouse might have included some exception for judges, so they notified their superiors instead of making an arrest.
The deputies may have had some crazy notion that judges know best.
“They probably rightfully assumed the judge wouldn’t be violating the law,” Smith said.
On July, 5 Claps was notified of charges of a Class B misdemeanor offense of carrying a concealed weapon in a prohibited area. His court date is July 19.
The Chicago Sun-Times recent “31 bullets” campaign highlighted dozens of ways to address our nation’s scourge of gun violence.
Here’s “Bullet 32”: Judges have to follow our gun laws, too.
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