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Only Gun Honesty Will Cure Chicagoland

Only Gun Honesty Will Cure Chicagoland

Photo credit: Scott Olson

Chicago is Gotham without Batman. Dystopian. Corrupt. Falling deeper into despair. And its mayor is saying American freedom is to blame.

As of Feb. 22, Chicago’s murder rate was double, at 95, of what it was on the same day last year. By March 1 the body count had reached 102. One hundred and two people gone, blown away. Perhaps those who don’t live in those rough neighborhoods can rationalize this away by saying many were gang members, but some were also children caught in the crossfire.

To put this in context, consider what is perhaps Chicago’s worst neighborhood, West Garfield Park. It has a population of about 18,000 people and it had 21 murders in 2015, according to a Chicago crime website. This means that West Garfield had a homicide rate of 116 per 100,000 people, while the world’s worst country for murders per capita, Honduras, has a homicide rate of 90.4 per 100,000, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

As the body count rises, Chicago’s officials and many in the media are blaming guns and law-abiding gun owners—yes, you and me—for the city’s out-of-control violence. They claim a higher moral authority and blame freedom for their carnage, even though freer areas of America are statistically much safer.

As solutions begin with honesty, it’s time to put the focus on Chicagoland, lest its problems spread like a cancer through the rest of the country.As the body count rises, Chicago’s officials and many in the media are blaming guns and law-abiding gun owners—yes, you and me—for the city’s out-of-control violence.

First, I should note that Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been criticized for the city’s rising homicide rate. Last January, for example, the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass wrote that police are saying Emanuel has assumed the “fetal” position. They said this after a video showing a police officer shooting Laquan McDonald, a teen with a knife and PCP reportedly in his system, 16 times from about 10 feet away was withheld from the public for 13 months—until after Emanuel’s re-election. 

Kass wrote: “Gone are the days when Emanuel can talk about being tough on crime, because that would involve his officers getting tough on it, too, and putting their hands on people and making arrests.”

As Emanuel played politics, Chicago actually ranked dead last in federal enforcement of gun laws per capita, according to a report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data gathering and distribution organization at Syracuse University.

Given this, why hasn’t the Obama administration been focusing on getting its attorneys in the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute those who buy guns for those who can’t pass a background check? Why haven’t they aggressively prosecuted each and every gang member found with an illegal gun? If President Barack Obama wants to enact executive actions related to gun violence, why doesn’t he direct his attorneys to act?

To see if prosecutions are being handled on the city level in Chicago, instead of by federal prosecutors, I asked Mayor Emanuel’s office, but they declined to reply. Chicago’s besieged police department also failed to reply to my inquiry, although both had several days to do so. In fact, the phone number listed on the Chicago Anti-Gun Enforcement (CAGE) Program’s website is out of service—and a desk sergeant for Chicago’s PD told me he’d never heard of the public email address (CLEARPATH@chicagopolice.org) that’s listed on its website. He gave me another email address for the press, but no one replied to that request either. They obviously don’t want to talk about this growing problem.

The DOJ once publicly threatened to take over the Ferguson, Mo., police department for much less. Perhaps it is time they at least threaten to do this in Chicago.

If President Obama and his administration really care about reducing violent crime committed with guns in the places where it is a pervasive problem, then they need to put politics aside—Chicago’s mayor is a former Obama administration official—and honestly and publicly give Chicago’s finest the resources they need and push them to prosecute everyone caught breaking gun laws.

The Chicago Tribune’s Kass summed up the problem this way: “Complacency among police and prosecutors, reduced manpower, unwillingness on the part of victims and witnesses to identify suspects—all lead to a street culture that often results in killers going free.”

I’d add that instead of focusing on the problem, Mayor Emanuel and the Obama administration are pointing their fingers at gun owners and federally licensed gun dealers outside of the city. That is what demagogues do—blame outsiders to take the pressure off themselves—instead of honestly addressing their own policies and biases. Chicago will be Gotham minus even the vigilante justice of Batman until city leaders honestly address the many problems on its streets.

(Watch next week for Frank Miniter’s interview with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent Thomas Ahern and others as we continue to dig into what’s really happening in Chicago.)