You think you're gonna control guns," the skinny blond teen-aged girl shrieked, her face red with rage, her trembling hand gripping a miniature American flag.
"No way. No way. Criminals are still going to get them, and the people who are innocent aren't going to be able to protect themselves. Right? I'm gonna be home one night alone and somebody's gonna break in and they're gonna try to rape me and if I don't have anything to protect me, I'm gonna be one pregnant lady. Right? No way. I'm gonna have a gun and shoot that sucker dead.
The overflow crowd, most hearing the village meeting on loudspeakers outside the town hall, cheered. "Right," some of them yelled. "Right."
Two hours later, after that emotional meeting in June, the trustees enacted the toughest handgun control ordinance in the country: a ban on sale and possession of handguns, with exemptions for licensed gun clubs and antique-gun collectors.
It set up what could become the first federal court test of whether there really is a constitutional "right" to own a handgun. A decision is expected shortly, and enforcement of the law is awaiting it.
It also inspired a flurry of similar proposals in other communities. (Friendship Heights in Maryland passed one on its own two weeks ago.) And it stunned the National Rifle Association, which has spent millions of dollars trying to prevent just this sort of thing from happening.
Morton Grove was not the place it was supposed to happen. That's what makes this episode so strange. This Chicago suburb, a mix of blue-, pale- and white-collar families who voted mainly for President Reagan in 1980, has never before gone in for social causes, including gun control.
And, despite the teen-aged girl's fear, Morton Grove doesn't have much crime. The last murder involving a handgun was 1979. Police records show no handgun-related rapes since at least 1958.
It wasn't a series of brutal shootings that sparked the law, but an attempt by a businessman to open a handgun store. The future store's neighbors didn't want a gun store nearby. In response, the trustees moved to ban the sale of handguns. Then, as if it were the next logical step, someone moved to ban the possession of guns as well.
The defeat at the hands of a band of part-time citizen-legislators must have smarted at NRA headquarters and in Illinois gun clubs, whose members lobbied vigorously against it. A legislative alert sent out from NRA headquarters showed the outrage: "The Village of Morton Grove, Illinois has passed the unthinkable," it said. " . . . These fanatics," those who would spread such laws, "must be stopped NOW."
The gun organizations' efforts to block the bill, in fact, appear only to have generated resentment from many of the trustees, who complained of "outside" influence in the controversy.
The unlikely source of all this anger lies along Dempster Street, a traffic-clogged thoroughfare running from Evanston through Skokie and Niles nearby.
One of the nation's longest parking lots, Dempster also holds one of the world's greatest concentrations of Arbys, Pizza Huts, McDonalds, K marts and Zayres. Dempster makes passers-through think that all the towns along it are the same too, franchises stamped without passion from one mold.
Passionless this town is not. The elected officials, who receive nominal salaries and display no evident ambition for fancier political futures, talk with passion about governing efficiently, for example.
Mayor Richard T. Flickinger says his proudest moment in recent years was when a blizzard buried the whole area. Morton Grove's streets were cleared. In Chicago, and some of the other suburbs, they were not.
"That's what we're here for," says Flickinger, a retired sales manager. "We hold our trustee meetings every two weeks. A subject comes up. You take a vote. You've got an [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]