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Pistol-packing lawmaker deserves a high-caliber nickname

How will Sen. Donne 'Dangerously' Trotter explain his opposition to concealed-carry laws now?

John Kass

December 7, 2012

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What's worse for a distinguished, pro-gun-control Chicago politician who sports a cool goatee and an always-natty wardrobe:

Being charged with a felony after allegedly trying to carry a .25-caliber Beretta handgun onto a Chicago plane bound for Washington?

Or to suffer as readers and radio talk show callers showered him Thursday with endearing — sometimes snarky — nicknames?

For state Sen. Donne "Tiny Pistol" Trotter, the longtime Chicago Democrat and candidate to replace former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., it can't be the criminal charge. It's got to be the sting of the snarky nicknames, which began after news broke that he'd been nabbed at O'Hare International Airport the day before with a James Bond 007-type gun in his garment bag.

"Let's call him 'Big Shooter,'" Jake Hartford said Thursday. Jake and I are filling in as radio hosts on WLS-AM 890 weekdays from 9 to 11 a.m. "Big Shooter."

No, Jake, I said. Trotter's .25-caliber Beretta would fit into the palm of a Barbie doll, so "Big Shooter" wouldn't work.

"Donne Dead-Eye Trotter," said one caller.

"Dinky Donne" or "Pea Shooter Trotter," said another.

Others offered "Pop Gun" Trotter, "Police Blotter" Trotter, "Almost Conceal Carry" Trotter and "Dead Eye" Trotter.

The women callers were surprisingly the snarkiest, but then women must be sick and tired of gun metaphors. Sometimes a gun is just a gun. And caliber does matter — when it's about stopping power.

"He shouldn't have carried it in the garment bag," said Lisa from Glen Ellyn, a gun enthusiast and shooter who ridiculed his tiny weapon. "He should have had it in a sequined fuchsia clutch. Something with a little pop."

Mike the Cop said that back in the day, people would carry tiny pistols in velvet bags offered by a Canadian whiskey distiller.

"They used to carry the small guns in the Crown Royal bags," said Mike. That's exactly what my able colleague, Old School, used to do.

"I used to keep my toy gun in a Crown Royal bag," said Old School. "I was 8 years old. It was a .38 detective special, when toy guns looked like real guns. So purple velvet bags made me remember my childhood."

Finally, one caller whose name has been lost to history captured it best:

Donne Dangerously.

And there it is.

State Sen. Donne "Dangerously" Trotter.

I've always liked Trotter, an able politician, thorough and usually cautious. But he surely told a whopper when he was caught.

Certainly no one with a brain believes Trotter's story that he pulled a night shift as a security guard before trying to board the plane.

Donne Dangerously as a security guard? He might as well have said he was city sewer inspector, Ferris wheel mechanic or fry cook. But that's his story and he's sticking to it.

As the nicknames poured in, Donne Dangerously stood in Cook County Central Bond Court at 26th and California, his hands behind his back, still nattily dressed in a suede tan blazer and slacks.

He'd spent the night in the Jefferson Park Police District lockup, where he was one of the few guests. During his stay there, he was offered Chicago's finest hospitality: a sandwich.

What kind?

"We only have one kind of sandwich," said a source. "It's turkey bologna."

Trotter politely declined the offer and just sat there, without eating. No wonder he keeps so trim.

I wondered if he thought, during all that time alone in his cell, about his congressional campaign, which will coincide with his criminal proceedings.

Hours later, in court, it was a circus. Dozens of reporters waited for him in the gallery, and a mob of cameramen hovered outside in the corridor, blocking any escape.

Cook County Judge Israel Desierto issued a bond of $25,000. Trotter had to pay 10 percent of that, and was told to turn in any other guns he may have. He was also ordered to report to court Dec. 12 for a preliminary hearing.

Donne Dangerously was out by 1:30 p.m. Reporters scrambled after him. Prior to his release, Trotter's attorneys said they would take his family home.

"We don't care about his family," barked a TV guy as if he'd found a heretic for boiling. "We want him!"

But Trotter didn't want them. So he let his attorney do the talking.

"We're not going to talk about the facts of the case right now," said criminal lawyer Joshua Herman. "We've had a long two days. Looking forward to getting home."

Then Donne Dangerously turned and left the building.

"Are you still running?" shouted a reporter when they got outside. "WHEN ARE YOU GONNA SAY SOMETHING?" cried another. "Are you going to talk?" said yet another.

Dangerously gave them his back, still crisp even after a night in the lockup.

When next he surfaces, he's bound to be asked about his long-standing opposition to concealed-carry provisions, which would allow law-abiding citizens to carry guns for their personal protection, just like state senators moonlighting as security guards.

In 1995, he ridiculed concealed-carry legislation and said it would create a mob who'd feel they were "stronger, they are badder, they are tougher because they have this nine-shooter on their hip."

Whether he was referring to himself, we'll never know. What we do know is that the .25-caliber Beretta was also beloved by suave British superagent James Bond.

Sadly, the fictional Bond had to relinquish the gun when his superiors demanded he carry more firepower.

But Donne Dangerously kept his Beretta. And I can just imagine what he'll say when he meets someone and they ask his name:

Dangerously.

Donne Dangerously.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass