Because of its grim achievement of 506 homicides in 2012 and the continued pace of tragedy in the new year, Chicago has "earned" what seems to be a permanent place in the national news. Two days ago, a 15 year old girl from a local high school that sends a majority of its students to college died from a gunshot wound after a gunman fired into a group of those students and then jumped into a car driven by an accomplice and sped away. Another child remains in the hospital in critical condition. That this tragedy occurred just blocks away from the home of the First Family will be one of two ironies that pundits and Vine participants will no doubt highlight. The other irony will be Chicago's status as one of the cities with some of the strictest gun laws in the country.
Until it was struck down in June of 2010, handguns were banned in the city of Chicago. Just this past December, the Court struck down blanket restrictions on open and concealed carry, giving the City 180 days to implement new ordinances. No doubt those new ordinances will be tested as I don't expect for Chicago to offer carte blanche opportunities for anyone to carry a firearm anywhere. Opponents of open and concealed carry restrictions argue that gun regulations and restrictions don't work, pointing to Chicago's grim milestone as proof. This is of course, a simple-minded and intellectually flaccid approach to the issue of guns, gun violence and gun policy in Chicago and elsewhere. So if we're going to discuss this, the least we can do is make an effort to do so based on facts.
To be sure, Chicago is in the midst of a terrible spike in general violence and in gun violence in particular. No homicide is excusable and though the perpetrators are chiefly culpable for killings in Chicago and elsewhere, responsibility to do something about it doesn't stop with them and doing nothing is not a viable option. Those arguing for permissive gun laws, however, ignore some very important facts. There were 970 homicides in Chicago in 1974. In 1980, less than two years before the now defunct handgun ban went into effect, Chicago had 876 homicides. The crack cocaine epidemic of the late 80s and early 90s led to a spike back up over 900, but homicides have been on a fairly steady decline since 931 in 1994 with the exception of 2008 and 2012. While I would not argue causality at all, Chicago experienced far more homicides before the handgun ban went into effect than it did at the time the ban was outlawed by the Supreme Court and two years after the ruling, gun violence has gone up.
Further, Chicago doesn't rank in the top 15 most dangerous cities based on murder rate (murders per 100,000 population).
While I'm not at all arguing correlation, nearly all of the cities with higher murder rates than Chicago have gun laws that are less restrictive. Ten of the cities with the highest murder rates are in "shall-issue" concealed carry states. Conversely, New York has restrictive gun laws yet maintains a very low murder rate. The reality is that many near-term, long-term and location-specific independent variables drive crime rates in various locales and those who jump onto the Vine and other forums arguing either a direct or inverse correlation between gun restrictions and gun crime are at best displaying willful nescience.
I have no doubt that, contrary to the facts, Chicago will continue to be portrayed as the "murder capital" of the United States because doing so serves the narrow interests of gun proponents. I frankly believe that such negative publicity will inure to the benefit of law abiding Chicago citizens because it will keep pressure on local authorities to continue to find solutions that push the crime rate down, while citizens in other states kill each other at higher rates. So, 2A fans, by all means, feel free keep on lying. On local, state and national public policy levels, our leaders must develop solutions that address the problem of illegally acquired firearms that plague our cities while not impeding on the rights of law abiding citizens to use guns for home protection and for sport. Too bad 20 little kids in a "non-urban" community had to die before lawmakers grew the minerals necessary to actually try to do something about the problem of gun violence. Contrary to the gun lobby and their legislative lackeys, doing nothing has never been an option