If you glance at the map of FOID cards by county that runs with our series, "Guns in the Suburbs," you'll probably be struck as we were by an inescapable observation:
Those of us living in Chicago's suburbs, as a bloc, have a starkly different experience with gun ownership than most of those living in the rest of the state.
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Elsewhere, a sizable chunk of the population possesses a firearms owner identification card, as required of gun owners in Illinois. In suburban Cook and the collar counties, the percentages are dramatically lower.
That's not to say gun ownership is low everywhere here. More than a quarter of the population has a FOID card, for example, in Antioch, Barrington, Elburn, Hampshire, Lake Villa, Maple Park and McHenry, and there are plenty of other suburbs where the percentages may not be quite as high but still are sizable.
But for the most part, percentages in the suburbs are comparatively low.
Why this is the case is subject to speculation. Could it just be a suburban thing? Well, the evidence isn't persuasive. There are suburban areas downstate as well in the St. Louis area, and those counties rank fairly high for FOID card possession.
No doubt, the bigger hunting lifestyle downstate has something to do with the higher percentages there. And if you live out in the country, far away from local police protection and pest control, you're probably more inclined to own a firearm too.
Undoubtedly, other factors enter into it, including perhaps fear of crime as well as political perspectives.
What this all says and the implications for our well-being are, of course, worthy of deeper exploration. But it's also important to note that the sharp contrast in percentages colors our views of the gun debate.
To so many of us living in the suburbs, gun ownership is foreign to our life's experience.
But think how differently a downstater might look at firearms issues when he or she grew up in a household where guns always were there. This divide is important for us understand if we ever are to come to consensus on gun safety and gun control issues in Illinois.
In the next few months, Illinois will become the last state in the union to begin accepting applications for concealed carry permits.
Thus, the reason for the "Guns in the Suburbs" series that begins today.
We thought it was a good time to take a look at the suburbs' relationship with guns -- how many gun permits already exist; how they are distributed; whether those stats suggest the more the permits, the safer a town.
We encourage you to explore the subject with us over the next several days.
We also encourage you to share your views.