On the first day of October 2021, two Dodge Chargers circled the 1200 block of North Mason Avenue in Chicago around 10:30 a.m. Three individuals then leaped from the vehicles and opened fire at a brick house in which members of a rival gang were sheltering. The gang members inside the building soon started shooting back.
In the end, 70 shell casings were recovered from the crime scene; one man was killed, two more were wounded and five were arrested for murder and aggravated battery.
Despite allegedly possessing guns that were illegally modified into machine guns, according to reporting by the Chicago Sun-Times, all five of the men arrested were released back onto the Chicago streets without charges.
Kim Foxx, the state’s attorney for Cook County, Ill., dismissed the battle as “mutual combat,” a broad legal term used to describe a fight that two parties willingly engage in; the county also cited a “lack of evidence” despite the shootout having been caught on video.
Yes, you heard that right: these dangerous gang members who blatantly opened fire and murdered in broad daylight were back on the streets three days later without having to face any charges.
In December, Amy Swearer, a fellow at The Heritage Foundation, attempted to draw attention to this claim of “mutual combat” to avoid prosecuting these gang members. But, as she testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) interrupted her.
“Ms. Swearer, I read your testimony,” Durbin said. “And I believe in all fairness, since we did not invite Cook County State’s Attorney’s office … that you shouldn’t really zero in on any particular individual.”
Swearer tried to again talk about this case, but Sen. Durbin again interrupted her. He clearly didn’t want this horrifying example of criminals not being prosecuted, even when someone is killed, to get more public attention. He’d rather people weren’t informed that Foxx was backed by anti-Second Amendment billionaire George Soros or that Foxx’s “progressive” agenda has let violent criminals right back onto the streets where they can put even young children in danger.
Instead, Sen. Durbin preferred once again to blame guns for the actions of violent criminals—bad guys whom people like Foxx would rather not prosecute.
“It seems that Durbin was more interested in using Chicago residents as political pawns than in understanding why Chicago’s criminals feel free to shoot whomever they want without fearing consequences,” Swearer later wrote in an article for The Daily Signal. “One important factor driving this violence is the failed leadership of Chicago’s mayor and city council, particularly their general lack of support for the Chicago Police Department. Chicago’s progressive prosecutors have exacerbated this problem by routinely allowing violent offenders to run amok without any meaningful consequences.”
Thus, rather than acknowledging the abysmal failures of Chicago’s anti-policing and anti-gun efforts, Durbin repeated the stale misinformation that gun sales and even the Second Amendment are to blame; he says this even though Chicago is among the cities with the strictest gun laws.
Durbin, of course, has long been pushing an anti-Second Amendment agenda.
“In the United States, mass shootings are almost a daily occurrence,” said Durbin in a press release in April 2021. “Americans worry that they and their loved ones may be targets when they are going to school, sitting in movie theaters, attending concerts, shopping in grocery stores or just walking in their neighborhoods. It is long past time to take common-sense steps to reduce the toll of gun violence in America, including limiting the civilian use of high-capacity magazines that can inflict mass violence in a short time.”
Isn’t locking up violent criminals common sense? Apparently not to Sen. Durbin, who seems to regard only lawful conduct as dangerous. He doesn’t seem to care that in 2021 more than 57 defendants committed violent crimes while they were out on felony bail in Chicago, according to CWB Chicago.
Chicago, of course, is hardly alone when it comes to violent crime and rising violence. FBI statistics show that homicides jumped by 30% in 2020, with Pew Research Center noting that it was the largest spike since 1905; however, instead of investigating defund-the-police efforts, prisoner releases and other policies that are most likely behind these spikes in violent crime, Pew reported that it “could offer no comprehensive explanation for the increase;” however, Pew did go out of its way to point out that “guns were involved in 77 percent of the murders.”
Pew, meanwhile, didn’t note that, in each case, an individual actually pulled a trigger.
A National Problem
At the end of 2021, the national murder rate was at about 6.5 homicides per 100,000 people, which is the highest it has been since 1997, though still below historic highs of the early 1990s; however, the rate in cities is often much higher.
Actually, in 2021, several cities set new records for the number of murders. Philadelphia, Pa., Portland, Ore., Louisville, Ky., and Albuquerque, N.M., all had their deadliest years on record last year. Philadelphia, for example, had 562 homicides, which surpassed its previous high of 500 set in 1990. Philadelphia is one of the jurisdictions that put a moratorium on arrests amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which massively reduced proactive policing.
New Yorkers also lament the escalating crime figures. According to Robert Boyce, retired chief of detectives for the New York Police Department, “Nobody is getting arrested anymore. People are getting picked up for gun possession, but they are just let out over and over again.”
Blaming American freedom is convenient for the far Left. Rather than take responsibility for their bad policies, they find it easy to blame freer areas of the country for crimes.
Meanwhile, as this was being written, it remained nearly impossible for average, law-abiding citizens of New York City to acquire a concealed-carry permit.
Also, it should be noted that violent criminals haven’t just been emboldened in a few big cities. Consider, for instance, Kern County, located north of Los Angeles. The homicide rate in 2020 increased to 12.7 per 100,000 residents in Kern County. This caused an outcry from residents that California’s “soft-on-crime ethos,” which includes recent laws changing certain felonies to misdemeanors, is impacting the entire state. More than one-third of the homicides in Bakersfield, Calif., the most-prominent city in Kern County, were caused by shootouts between gang members.
Freedom is Not to Blame
While this is going on, politicians, such as Sen. Durbin, continue to invoke the absurd argument that law-abiding gun owners and legal gun sales are somehow responsible for the violence plaguing the nation.
For example, anti-gun activists in Austin, Texas, falsely attribute the fact that the city is at the end “of its deadliest year on record” on “what both authorities and community leaders say is easy access to guns,” says CNN.
This blame-American-freedom tactic is politically convenient for the far Left. It’s far easier for them to point to freer regions and blame legally armed citizens than it is to acknowledge that their policies are making things worse.
Chris Harris, a member of the community-led Austin Justice Coalition, for example, has said that the “accessibility of guns” across America is a leading factor for the rise in violence. Similarly, in Philadelphia, Daniel Semenza, a Rutgers-Camden University criminal justice professor, says the “swelling ranks of gun owners over the last two years has likely made the stolen-gun problem worse.”
Clearly, it is simply more politically convenient for those who despise the Second Amendment to accuse lawful gun owners of contributing to rising crime, in spite of there being no evidence to support such a claim.
“It isn’t difficult to figure out what is happening. If it is less risky for criminals to commit crimes, they will commit more crimes. All across the country, because of COVID, we have seen a large number of criminals released early from jail,” said John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, when interviewed for this article. “Over half the inmates have been released from jails and prisons in many places. Many of these criminals are violent criminals.”
Additionally, Lott points out that some police departments have seen their budgets cut while increasing regulations and other restrictions on law enforcement are making their jobs more difficult.
“If someone is already facing many years in jail and you release them with low or no bail, there is little incentive for them to stop,” Lott said. “And the arrest rate for murder in Chicago is only about 20%.”
Before the start of the pandemic in 2020, the onset of civil unrest and the implementation of justice reform, violent crime had decreased by more than half between 1991 and 2019; this happened while some estimate that the number of privately owned firearms doubled during the same time period. Clearly, guns owned by law-abiding citizens are not the issue.
Many from the far Left seem to believe that the “only real victims in the system are the defendants themselves,” said Rania Mankarious, CEO of Crime Stoppers Houston, a non-profit focused on public safety, when interviewed for this article. “They have been working on these changes to the system for the last few years. We are seeing the results of these changes now. Crime now pays in cities across America. Families are experiencing the impact. Local neighborhoods, businesses and more are all experiencing the effects. The same political figures who are anti-gun still push to decriminalize criminal activity where guns are at the heart of the crime.”
This issue shouldn’t be political, says Lott. “People have seen that crime is rising, and police too often aren’t allowed to do their jobs. People have realized that they are ultimately responsible for their own protection. Gun-control advocates see the increase in crime and gun sales, but they refuse to acknowledge the role that progressive policies on law enforcement play in this increase in crime and why people have bought guns after the rise in crime,” Lott said. “The solution is simple: make it risky for criminals to commit crimes. Increase the arrest and conviction rates. It shouldn’t even be a political question.”
At that U.S. Senate hearing, Amy Swearer did get a moment to reply to Sen. Durbin’s attempt to shut her up. “Senator, I do in fact respect that this is something that we’re looking at from a federal level,” said Swearer. “However, when we’re talking about what is actually happening in Chicago … we need to look at how do things like not charging five individuals who shot up a residential neighborhood on a Friday, none of which were charged and were released on Monday. How does that impact the feeling of confidence?”
A tweet from Heritage with a video of this testimony soon went viral and Swearer went on Fox News’ Fox & Friends to discuss the attempt to control the gun-control narrative by Sen. Durbin.
“It’s infuriating,” Swearer told Fox News. “If this is not the time, place and manner to talk about some of these underlying problems in Chicago, when is?”