One of the greatest moments of my journalism career was getting to tell the story of Otis W. McDonald, a Black man from the Morgan Park community who took the City of Chicago all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. McDonald’s victory on June 28, 2010 is the reason why citizens in Chicago have a right to own handguns for self-defense in their homes. The court ruled Chicago’s handgun ban, which had been in place since 1982, was unconstitutional and violated both the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. This ruling led the way for gun law changes in Illinois that now allows for those who qualify, to obtain a concealed carry license, where they can also carry a gun for protection outside their home.
You would think a man like this deserves a statue, a commemorative street sign, a school named after him, hell, just an acknowledgment by African American lawmakers in Chicago. Instead, many have no clue who he was and those that do, may not see him as a hero. But make no doubt about it, McDonald was a true American hero.
Shortly after his victory in court, I had the honor of meeting McDonald in person as he granted me an interview at his home. That one interview has spawned a relationship with his family that lasts to this day. Even as McDonald’s health began to fail him in 2014, we still kept in touch. I was the only reporter invited to speak with him on his death bed at Holy Cross Hospital. That conversation was off the record, personal and memorable. He had only days left to live and couldn’t speak much, but we were able to communicate and he was grateful, a young Black reporter was telling the important story of gun rights for Black people. I made a promise to him that I would forever cover gun rights and bring the truths about it to Black Americans. I told him how personally grateful I was that he allowed himself to be the lead plaintiff in a landmark case. I thanked him for standing up and taking on the City of Chicago, when others were afraid to. I thanked him for signing a personal copy of his book “An Act of Bravery: Otis W. McDonald and the Second Amendment.” I thanked him for inviting me into this home, family and life. I thanked him for being one of the tips on the spears that moved the Black community forward.
It is time for the Black community, the 2nd Amendment community and the City of Chicago as a whole to thank Mr. McDonald as well. Chicago Public Schools announced back in December that they were examining renaming CPS schools that were named after slaveholders. An Otis W. McDonald school would be a great start in keeping that promise, just as I kept my promise to Otis with this series of articles on gun ownership. Enjoy.