In our state, politicians are protected — but not the rest of us

Anti-gun policy wonks talk in abstract terms. But it's not abstract for victims. It's not abstract for Quizhpe. And it wasn't abstract for Michael Kozel, 57, who for 20 years owned a muffler shop in the Gage Park neighborhood. On Jan. 3 he was shot dead in the back by robbers, one of the 42 homicides that month. Chicago has already forgotten his name.

I grew up helping out in my family's small business, but my father didn't want a gun at our store. He'd spent years in war; he knew what could happen. And he wasn't a mayor or an alderman.

One day my Aunt Fannie, a cashier in her 70s, had a gun stuck into her face. She gave up the cash.

One of my uncles owned another store on the South Side. A street gang came in with fire to burn it down. He pulled a gun and one of the thugs said: Kill me.

My uncle didn't want to kill anyone. The extortionists knew it and dragged him into the meat cooler. Only the pleading of a cashier from the neighborhood saved him. My uncle left the business and never returned. He later opened a place in the suburbs.

Quizhpe said he's considering selling the store his family has run for decades.

"I've been thinking about selling everything off and changing my business," he said. "The reality is, with everything going on, it's difficult to put myself and my family in danger."

The politicians don't have to run. They're protected.

Only the law-abiding have to run in Illinois.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass

CHICAGO

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