Over the weekend eight people were slain and 44 wounded in Chicago. “Although murders in Chicago spiked to 516 in 2012 – only the second time homicides surpassed 500 since 2003 – they dropped to 415 last year, the lowest murder total for Chicago in nearly 50 years. The superintendent said the vast majority of shootings in Chicago are gang-related, and detectives were working to determine ‘which of the hot conflicts’ were to blame for the most recent spate of violence.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) seems to think that the strict anti-gun laws in the city and state are insufficient. (Local news reports unsurprisingly state that the weapons used in most of these killings were illegally obtained.)
The Chicago Tribune reports that Emanuel denounced the violence, “calling for adults around the city to instill the right values in their children and to stand up for the safety of their neighborhoods. . . . Emanuel said he spoke to the parents of five children who were shot over the weekend, as is his custom, calling it the most difficult part of his job. ‘I want them to know that I love them, I care for them and their city cares for them, and we will be there as many tomorrows as it takes,’ he said.” He continued: “Every child deserves a childhood, regardless of where they live. But to do that, our city and community, the neighborhoods that make up this city, cannot live by a code of silence. They have to live by a moral code. Now I’ve read some of this, and I just want to say this, when some people go ‘Well, it’s the weather.’ It’s whether you have values.” He added, “Yes, weather’s an impact. Where you put police is an impact. Whether you have summer jobs, after school programs, camps, summer reading programs. We have to do that and more.” Emanuel might have also addressed the responsibilities of fathers who abandon their children and religious leaders who can cultivate those “values” the mayor mentioned.
After the killings, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago announced that it would set up a special violent crimes unit. Whether the violent crimes section should have been formed years ago or whether it is another symbolic move I’ll leave others to debate. But the gruesome homicide toll, which rarely gets national media coverage, is sickening and inconceivable to most Americans. Why is Chicago still racking up homicides?
Coincidentally, I just returned from a few days in Chicago. One couldn’t miss the ubiquitous stickers on the glass doors and windows of public buildings, restaurants and schools picturing a handgun in a red circle with a line through it. The “no handgun” signs, it seems, don’t work. None of the establishments we visited, both public and private, had metal detectors or even guards to check purses and bags. They’re on the honor system, I suppose.
It is also the perfect example of the mindless efforts of anti-gun advocates who imagine that such things have any value. They are, if anything, a cruel hoax, a distraction from the killings in the city, which unlike New York, has not established rudimentary public order for all its citizens. Nearly as useless are the city’s and state’s anti-gun laws, some of the most stringent in the nation. In January, a federal judge struck down the city’s ban on gun dealers but gave the city six months to rewrite the law. (This was only one of many legal battles in the past few years over the city’s uber-strict gun restrictions. A raft of other bans and restrictions remains in place.)
Maybe other laws are the root of the problem. The local ABC news station in Chicago reports:
Despite some political rhetoric suggesting that Illinois allows those arrested for gun possession to get off home-free, there is a mandatory minimum penitentiary sentence for gun possession here of one year. But with day-for-day good behavior credit, most convicts are out in 6 months, and some Cook County judges give probation. The result? According to police, “169 people involved as offenders or victims in last year’s murders or shootings would instead have been behind bars.” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, police and Mayor Emanuel back state legislation that would lock up illegal gun carriers for a minimum of three years, offer no day-for-day good time and require a convict serve 85 percent of the sentence. That would mean that gun possessors would service 930 days in custody vs. 180 as it now stands. The legislation passed the Illinois Senate late last year but is stalled in the Illinois House.
Yes, getting criminals who have used guns off the street might help.
I suggested earlier today that first lady Michelle Obama should spend more time talking to teens. She can start, perhaps, in her home town. At funerals — but more important, in schools before kids drop out and when a productive life still awaits them — she and her husband can lend their own stature to the effort to reduce violence, not by putting stickers on windows or passing more useless anti-gun laws, but by keeping kids in schools and fathers in families.