CHICAGO (AP) _ A shooting spree by a woman at a Winnetka school happened nearly a year ago, but the effects linger. Residents in the quiet suburb vote this week on a handgun ban, while police hope to buy Uzi submachine guns.
More than 500 people have cast absentee ballots in advance of Tuesday’s non-binding referendum on whether to prohibit the weapons in the affluent Chicago suburb of 13,000 residents, said Deputy Village Clerk Lois Resnick.
The absentee vote was more than the total turnout expected if the handgun issue had not been on the ballot, which otherwise lists only unopposed local officials, said village Trustee Sandra Levin.
She said village officials expect that residents will approve the ban.
The shootings by Laurie Dann shocked Winnetka, which had not had a homicide since a police officer was slain in 1957. Dann, 30, killed an 8-year-old boy and critically wounded several others before fleeing to a nearby house, where she shot a young man and took her own life.
Winnetka has had little violent crime. Last year, the community had no reported robberies or rapes; Police Chief Herbt Timm said offices haven’t fired a gun in the line of duty for at least a year.
Despite that, Timm put $13,000 in the department budget for Uzis to replace officers’ shotguns and semiautomatic pistols to replace their revolvers.
″I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think it was necessary. It’s just like upgrading your vehicle fleet. You don’t want officers driving around in Model T Fords,″ Timm said.
Brian Wilson, assistant to the village manager, said the measure is considered preventive.
″We’re not saying we have drug dealers or street gangs in Winnetka,″ he said. ″It is an effort to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.″
Mrs. Levin contends a handgun ban would serve the same purpose.
″I favor a handgun ban because I think that we will be safer with one,″ she said. ″I think that handguns have been involved in too many accidents, homicides, suicides, crimes of passion and domestic violence. Having access to a handgun just increases the danger of its being used.″
Jim Zangrilli, a board member of the National Rifle Association and a resident of Oak Park, said he doubted a handgun ban in Winnetka would be constitutional since the community is not large enough to qualify for ″home rule.″
″We recommend that people not waste their time and money on going to the polls but they save their money for a lawsuit,″ he said.
″Winnetka has a special charter,″ Mrs. Levin said, ″and we feel we have the authority by virtue of that ... to pass legislation for a handgun ban,″ she said.
The village council postponed a decision on the proposed handgun ban until after the referendum, which was placed on the ballot as the result of a petition drive.
Five other Illinois communities have a handgun ban, including Chicago, Oak Park and Evanston.