Otis McDonald, 76, says he needs a handgun to defend himself in his Chicago neighborhood. So in April 2008, the retired maintenance engineer agreed to serve as the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging Chicago’s 28-year-old handgun ban. Soon after, he walked into the police department, and, as his attorneys had directed, applied for a .22-caliber Beretta pistol, setting the lawsuit into motion. When that case is argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 2, McDonald will become the public face of one of the most important Second Amendment cases in history, says the Chicago Tribune.
Amid the clamor of the gun-rights debate, McDonald presents a strongly sympathetic figure: an elderly man who wants a gun to protect himself from the hoodlums preying upon his neighborhood. But the story of McDonald and his lawsuit is more complicated than its broad outlines might suggest. McDonald and three co-plaintiffs were carefully recruited by gun-rights groups attempting to shift the public perception of the Second Amendment as a white, rural Republican issue. McDonald, a Democrat and longtime hunter, jokes that he was chosen as lead plaintiff because he is African-American. And no matter what the court – and the public – might make of his story or his case, legal experts say McDonald is poised to become an enduring symbol.