During his Monday afternoon show, MSNBC host Martin Bashir initiated a segment by reporting on the tragic shootings that took place over Father’s Day weekend in Chicago. Over the holiday weekend a total of 41 people were shot, 7 fatally. Bashir wasted no time politicizing these tragedies by using them as evidence that the “conversation is not over” on pushing new gun control legislation in Congress. He then went on to shamelessly advertise for Vice President Joe Biden’s White House event to support gun-restricting legislation as well as the No More Names bus tour which is a project paid for by Major Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group to try to drum-up popular support for anti-gun legislation. [Link to the audio here]
It is curious that Bashir would use Chicago gun violence as an example of why there needs to be universal background checks prior to the purchase of legal firearms. Amid his own claims that the NRA was endorsing a “program of disinformation” and promulgating the “spreading of falsehood and lies” by “suggesting that there was going to be a registry for gun owners,” it seems that Bashir must not have done his homework to choose Chicago as his example for this platform.
First of all, to clear up Bashir’s liberal-leaning and incredibly generalized comments about the NRA, the statement to which he is referring is an article that was written by Chris Cox, who is the chief lobbyist for the NRA. Cox did not write anywhere in the article that the since-defeated Fix Gun Checks Act would create a national gun registry because it clearly did not. Cox merely expressed his and many other gun-owners’ concerns that such legislation pressing for “universal background checks” could serve as “a major advance toward … gun registration.”
However, it is still rather peculiar that Bashir would choose to use Chicago as his example of why stricter gun regulations need to be implemented to see a reduction in gun violence because Chicago has some of the nation’s most strict gun laws, yet still has one of the world’s most notorious homicide rates, with more than 500 murders that were reported in 2012 alone.
The city council of Chicago passed legislation in 2010 that goes far beyond the federal legislation for which Bashir pines. It requires gun owners “to undergo multiple background checks, take a training class, acquire a state firearm owner's identification (FOID) card, and apply for a firearm permit with the police” according to an article in the Chicago Reader. The issue with such legislation is that only 6% of the city’s 130,000 gun owners have actually gone to the trouble of completing all these requirements.
In addition, the new regulations have in effect given criminals a monopoly over gun possession in areas where police are stretched thin because the process is too complex for those who want to obtain a gun legally.
Another reason that gun control legislation has not and will not help curb such violent aggression is because of the high availability of illegal firearms. According to a New York Times report, there is a “river of illegal weapons running through the streets of Chicago” that is fuelled by people like the “Gun Man” who drives through the streets of Chicago “selling pistols from the back of a light-blue van.” But this is not even close to the only way deviants can obtain guns in the city. Many suburban gun stores are robbed by gangs seeking their firearms while others are supplied to legal gun dealers who are happy to sell under-the-table if it means they can pocket a little extra profit. Furthermore, there will always be instances where corrupt cops illegally sell guns to crooks, like the case of ex-police officer-turned-FBI informant Ali Haleem.
The point is that legislation to control the legal obtaining of a firearm will do next to nothing to stem gun violence because criminals will simply find a way to obtain them illegally. If anything, such legislation will serve to add to epidemic of illegally procure guns.
So, since gun control measures have proved to be ineffective at solving the gun violence in cities like Chicago, what is the main contributing factor to such criminal activity?
According to Chicago pastor Corey Brooks in a CNN interview, it is because of the culture and socioeconomic hardships that the young men in the most violent neighborhoods in the south and west of the city. When asked what the root of the problem in Chicago was, Brooks responded that there were “a myriad of issues surrounding [the] violence” including a great deal of educational, social and spiritual causes.
However, Brooks went on to say that the main issue is that there are simply a large number of hostile young men who always feel the need to retaliate for violence against them, and the key to stopping this violence is collaboration. He feels that it will take the people working with the police to change the social and economic culture of the city, and the facts back him up.
For example, in south Chicago neighborhoods like Englewood and Fuller Park where the crime rates are staggeringly high, the socioeconomic demographics are almost unbelievable. According to statistics by the Chicago Tribune, the per-capita income of these cities hover right around $10,000 per year which, given the sky-high cost-of-living in Chicago, is not even close to enough to survive on let alone raise a family with. Also, these areas experience upwards of a 40% unemployment rate which is due in large part to the fact that the average high school only graduates around 65% of its students.
Such poverty and utter destitution would be more than enough incentive for most to engage in criminal activity or join a gang to provide for their most basic needs.
Obsessive focus by the media on gun crime papers over real questions about how liberal policies in American inner cities like Chicago have led to economic, cultural, and spiritual rot which turns them into a perfect petri dish for the breeding of despair and violence. Journalists like Bashir must realize that the problem is much deeper than an inanimate object that hurls a projectile through the air at the squeeze of a trigger. However, diving into the failures of governance in Chicago would mean addressing the failures of liberal politicians who control the levers of power there, and that is something that MSNBC and many other liberal networks are not willing to do.
Whatever the solution may turn out to be, the most crucial first step in the process is spreading awareness of the true problem. Instead of focusing on partisan bickering over gun laws, which have proven ineffective at best, the media needs to give more coverage to the resolving the root of the predicament, the poor socioeconomic condition of the areas from which gun violence emanates.
For reference, the transcript of the segment is provided below:
June 17, 2013
4:16 p.m. Eastern
MARTIN BASHIR: The city of Chicago has given us 41 more reasons why the national conversation on guns must continue. Between Friday and Father's Day, no less than 41 citizens of the windy city were struck by bullets. An outbreak of violence that left seven dead and abruptly spoiled headlines about a recent decline in the city's notorious homicide rate. Gun violence in Chicago like the rest of America remains clear and present problem. And six months after that horrific shooting at sandy hook elementary school there is a renewed effort to pressure congress into action. Gun-control advocates have launched a 100-day 25-state bus tour to keep the conversation about background checks alive. This as the White House and vice president Joe Biden will host an event tomorrow in the hope of breathing new life into gun safety legislation. Joining us now is democratic congressman Joe Courtney of Connecticut. Good afternoon, sir.
REP. JOE COURTNEY: Good afternoon, Martin.
BASHIR: You met with members of the Newton action alliance last week which as you know includes some of the victims’ families from Newtown. How real is this renewed effort for gun reform after such disappointment following the failure of that background check bill?
COURTNEY: I think it's very real. You know, as part of the gathering I attended, Harry Reid was there, who obviously is the gatekeeper for when and if this revote takes place, and he showed, in my opinion, steely determination that this measure is going to be revisited and that it's not going to be a, you know, ugly watered down version, that, in fact, it's going to maintain the principles of the original bill intact. And, again, we had an impressive turnout from families from Newtown who came to Washington, DC., who fanned out obviously in the members' offices in Senate that are key votes that we need to switch and actually have now actually begun working on the House side which again is going to be, you know, over the horizon but obviously a necessary part of getting his done. These people, when they come, are the most powerful advocates you could ever imagine. I mean, these are smart, reasonable people. Victoria Soto’s sister who is there who could be anyone's daughter who is a sitting member of Congress. You know, they have already bent over in terms of compromising what their wish list would be in terms of a gun violence bill and they are there talking about trying to have congress do its job which is to legislate and compromise which is really the structure of our system. So again, I think it was a very successful visit.
BASHIR: Is it your view, sir, that the program of disinformation that was run by the NRA where they were suggesting that there was going to be a registry for gun owners and so on, has this campaign been able to push back that kind of disinformation, basically the spreading of falsehood and lies about this legislation?
COURTNEY: Well, certainly the polling seems to be steady as she goes in terms of the public's support for what I think most people think is common sense, that we should have comprehensive background checks at time of purchase and application for gun permits so that people with criminal histories and me illness are not allowed access to firearms, something which Justice Scalia recognized in the second amendment case, was totally consistent with second amendment rights. So at this point, maybe within the hard-core of their membership who get this unrelenting messaging, it may sort of stick with them, but I think again the broad public still I think is aghast that the Senate and the House have not moved quicker to deal with something that I think again most people recognize as pure common sense.