How do we solve Chicago’s problem with gun violence?

Chicago has reached five hundred homicides so far this year.  I doubt this comes as a surprise to my readers.  The Second City is notorious among gun rights supporters as an example of how control doesn’t work.  The news comes as one piece of data in what appears to be a trend of increase of murders in many of America’s largest cities that has run counter to the overall decrease over the last several decades.  As is so often the case in matters of criminology, the explanation for this rise isn’t clear, nor has the increase lasted long enough to be certainly more than a fluctuation.

The usual call and response when it comes to Chicago and several other cities is to say that their gun laws disarm good people while doing nothing to prevent bad people from getting guns, only to be told that “weak” gun laws in much of the country allow guns to flow to areas with strict controls.

There is some truth in this exchange.  Guns do indeed move from states that respect gun rights into Chicago, for example.  I recall some mention of supply meeting demand discussed in the economics class that I took in college that may explain what’s going on here.  What isn’t easy to explain is why guns feel the need to move to where they’re not officially welcome to commit their acts of carnage.  Indiana is the largest source of illegal guns in Illinois.  And yet, not once since 1996 has the homicide rate in Illinois been lower than in its eastern neighbor.  I would expect murders to occur more often in a state with looser gun laws than one with strict laws if the gun control narrative were correct, and I’ve never been able to get someone pushing that narrative to explain why things don’t turn out in a manner that reason would predict.

Eddie Johnson, superintendent of police in the Windy City, believes that the violence there won’t go down until the gun laws change.  The number of murders there are double those of New York City and Los Angeles added together, and according to Johnson, Chicago would match their lower rate if his city had the same laws as theirs.

Assertions like that are good for a laugh.  There’s a tiny bit of truth in the last few years, since carry licensing is now shall-issue in Illinois.  But anyone claiming that Chicago is a realm of gun freedom when compared with the nation’s two largest cities is telling whoppers that Mark Twain would admire.

Superintendent Johnson has made at least one proposal that goes outside the usual reactions of politically appointed law enforcement leaders.  He would like to see offenders convicted of gun crimes face much longer prison sentences.  However, as Amy P. Campanelli, newly appointed public defender for Cook County, points out, the punishment for a gun homicide is already strict, and the parallel example of the War on Drugs shows that a “War on Guns” is unlikely to achieve the goal of a reduced murder rate.  What she recommends will be familiar to my readers:  education, job opportunities, more police on the streets relating in a better way with the community.

As is so often the case, solutions that work are exactly what won’t be tried by either the proponents of law and order or those who want more controls on guns.  When ideology is more important to our leaders than protecting freedoms and saving lives, it’s time to replace those leaders.  Until we do, cities like Chicago will continue seeing the number of victims grow.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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