Violence is soaring in Chicago, with homicides and shootings far above last year’s statistics. Violence is nothing new in Chicago, unfortunately, and neither are the calls for more gun-control laws from city officials. Chicago banned handguns starting in 1982, but somehow the criminals failed to get the message. Crime rates soared throughout the 1980s and early 1990s before beginning to decline around 1994. This crime drop can’t be credited to the city’s restrictive gun-control laws though, since crime was dropping throughout the United States during the same time period.
No matter, though. Gun control has always been a go-to sound bite solution for Windy City politicians. If they aren’t calling for a new local or state law, they’re claiming that the reason crime is so bad in Chicago is because other states don’t have gun laws that look like Chicago’s … you know, where the crime rate is sky high.
I know. It’s confusing and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. That’s “gunsense” for you. But a new survey of individuals inside the Cook County Jail that found the vast majority of them aren’t interested in following the gun laws that are on the books gives Chicago politicians a chance to do something other than bloviate about the need for more gun laws. Only two of the nearly 100 inmates interviewed bought their gun at a gun shop. The vast majority of these accused criminals got a gun from a family member, a friend or through theft.
What is needed, according to Harold Pollack, co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, are “swift and certain consequences, but not overly severe consequences, for getting caught with a gun that are meaningful to the perpetrators who might consider carrying them.” Does that sound like you need another gun law? Or does it sound like the criminal justice system is in need of some reforming?
Here’s the problem. It’s not just that, as Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says, 75 percent of the individuals arrested for illegally carrying a gun “don’t do any time and are back out on the street” almost immediately. Even when someone is arrested and charged with a violent crime, they’re likely to get a plea bargain, or even sentenced to time served. This can happen time and time again, at least until the criminal does something so heinous that it’s reported on the evening news and makes the local paper. If that happens, they’re likely out of luck. But the problem goes way beyond increasing penalties for people illegally carrying a firearm.
Still, it’s good to see people in Chicago talking about reforming and enforcing laws instead of just calling for another round of ineffective anti-gun legislation. Some politicians will say we need to “do something,” but that’s not the answer. We need to do things that work, starting with a focus on the most violent criminals, instead of the law-abiding gun owner.