Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago is presiding over a marked increase in the number of murders in her city. By July 2020, there had been more murders in Chicago than there were in all of 2019. In response, Lightfoot has geared up and taken the fight to ... Indiana?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Lightfoot claims that the rise in violence is the fault of everyone other than herself, the city’s council and the people who live in the city she governs. “We are being inundated,” she complains, “with guns from states that have virtually no gun control, no background checks, no ban on assault weapons—that is hurting cities like Chicago.”
Is it now?
There is, in fact, no such thing as a state that has “virtually no gun control,” because there are thousands of federal gun-control laws on the books and because federal law applies to all states equally. There are, however, states that do a better job of getting out of the way of their citizens’ freedom than Illinois. And yet, it is nigh on impossible to determine how this is relevant to Chicago’s rising crime rates. Most firearms used in crimes in Illinois are bought in Illinois, not elsewhere. Democrat-run states, such as California and New York, also border states with fewer gun-control laws, and they have managed to avoid Chicago’s fate—as, for that matter, have the states that Lightfoot blames. Besides, nothing in America’s patchwork quilt of gun-control laws has changed in recent months. If loose gun laws are to blame for the recent increase, as Lightfoot insists they are, then why weren’t those same laws to blame last year? Or the year before? Or the year before that? It couldn’t be, could it, that city officials’ decision to tolerate lawlessness while vilifying the police has led to bad outcomes?
As for Lightfoot’s reference to states that have “no ban on assault weapons,” it is hard to know where to begin. As the statistics clearly show, the rise in murders in Chicago has had precisely nothing to do with so-called “assault weapons,” which are used so infrequently in crimes that the FBI does not keep distinct statistics on their use.
In recent years, the percentage of murders in Illinois that were committed with rifles of all types—that is, not just those that are arbitrarily deemed “assault weapons”—was one. One percent. That, clearly, is a tiny number—especially when compared to knives and hands and fists, which accounted for around 10% of all murders in Illinois—and yet, astonishingly, it represents a larger number of murders committed with rifles than is the case in the “loose” states about which Lightfoot is complaining. Here, as ever, the monomaniacal focus on “assault weapons” yields nonsense all the way down.
What is happening in Chicago is, indeed, a disgrace. But it is a disgrace of Chicago’s own making. Lori Lightfoot’s party has been running the show uninterrupted since 1931, and, during that time, the city has developed a longstanding and well-deserved reputation for crime that stands independently of the states around it. That reputation is not Indiana’s fault. It is not Wisconsin’s fault. It is not Kentucky’s fault. And it is not the fault of the Second Amendment, which was almost entirely ignored by the city until 2010. If this terrible situation is to be fixed, Mayor Lightfoot will be obliged to look a little closer to home. She might start by addressing the city’s dismal record of prosecuting straw purchasers; she might agree to ignore the more fashionable among the policing nostrums currently percolating around the nation; and, instead of lobbing unfounded opprobrium their way, she might ask her neighboring mayors what they’re clearly doing right.