Wednesday's front-page report by New York Times reporter Monica Davey, "Strict Chicago Gun Laws Can’t Stem Fatal Shots," at first seemed to demonstrate the uselessness of the strict gun control measures in place in high-crime cities like Chicago. Yet Davey missed that obvious conclusion, instead quoting anti-gun activists who claim that gun control will only work if the entire nation becomes a gun-free zone, both high-crime and low-crime areas alike.
Not a single gun shop can be found in this city because they are outlawed. Handguns were banned in Chicago for decades, too, until 2010, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that was going too far, leading city leaders to settle for restrictions some describe as the closest they could get legally to a ban without a ban. Despite a continuing legal fight, Illinois remains the only state in the nation with no provision to let private citizens carry guns in public.
And yet Chicago, a city with no civilian gun ranges and bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, finds itself laboring to stem a flood of gun violence that contributed to more than 500 homicides last year and at least 40 killings already in 2013, including a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl on Tuesday.
To gun rights advocates, the city provides stark evidence that even some of the toughest restrictions fail to make places safer. “The gun laws in Chicago only restrict the law-abiding citizens and they’ve essentially made the citizens prey,” said Richard A. Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. To gun control proponents, the struggles here underscore the opposite -- a need for strict, uniform national gun laws to eliminate the current patchwork of state and local rules that allow guns to flow into this city from outside.
Davey sided with the gun control proponents:
Chicago’s experience reveals the complications inherent in carrying out local gun laws around the nation. Less restrictive laws in neighboring communities and states not only make guns easy to obtain nearby, but layers of differing laws -- local and state -- make it difficult to police violations. And though many describe the local and state gun laws here as relatively stringent, penalties for violating them -- from jail time to fines -- have not proven as severe as they are in some other places, reducing the incentive to comply.
She concluded with the same point:
At the store, a clerk said the business followed all pertinent federal, state and local laws, then declined to be interviewed further. Among seized guns that had moved from purchase to the streets of Chicago in a year’s time or less, nearly 20 percent came from Chuck’s, the analysis found. Other guns arrived here that rapidly from gun shops in other parts of this state, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, Iowa and more.
“Chicago is not an island,” said David Spielfogel, senior adviser to Mr. Emanuel. “We’re only as strong as the weakest gun law in surrounding states.”
The Times didn't question why Chicago would have high gun crime while the places with the actual guns shops, and thus far easier access to those dangerous guns, did not. Could it be that it's not the guns, but the criminal who use them, that are the real driver of crime?