Monday, May 30, 2016

Chicago, Chicago, That Murderin’ Town!

Major cities, back at the beginning of the last decade, watched a serious decline in murder rates. While gang homicides continued, there almost seemed to be a peace treaty descending on the biggest urban areas in the United States. But while New York and Los Angeles continued that lower murder rate, in 2004, Chicago seemed to return to the escalating homicides often associated with the gangland days of Prohibition back in the 1920s and 30s. Guns. Between Friday and Monday morning over Memorial weekend, there were over 40 shootings in the Windy City.
But why Chicago? It’s liberal city with pretty strict gun controls. “Already embroiled in a crisis over race and police conduct, Chicago now faces a 62 percent increase in homicides. Through mid-May, 216 people have been killed. Shootings also are up 60 percent.” New York Times, May 27th. Gang-violence accounts for most of the deaths, but it really is about guns, guns, guns.
The homicide rate in Chicago is just a little higher than in New York when guns aren’t involved. But when it comes to shootings, both fatal and not, Chicago stands out, suggesting a level of armed interaction that isn’t happening in New York.
“Chicago has a reputation for strict gun laws, and gun rights advocates often point to it as proof that gun regulation doesn’t reduce violence. But its laws aren’t what they used to be: Federal courts struck down its ban on handgun ownership in 2010, and its ban on gun sales in 2014. And a New York Times analysis showed guns were easily available from nearby jurisdictions, especially Indiana.
“And Chicago is more lenient about illegal handguns than New York, prescribing a one-year minimum for possession versus three and a half years in New York. An attempt to match the New York law in 2013 was rejected by the Illinois legislature out of concern for skyrocketing incarceration rates for young black men.
“New York also hired a lot more police officers in response to the crime of the 1990s, and, during its stop-and-frisk era of the 2000s, steeply increased gun enforcement. Recent studies, including one that looked at increased police presence in London after a terrorist attack, have suggested more police might mean less crime, said Jens Ludwig, the director of Crime Lab at the University of Chicago, which studies crime in both Chicago and New York.”
“Chicago’s Police Department, overwhelmed, can respond only to the most serious problems, leaving citizens to feel responsible for their own security, he said.
“‘Everyone has to establish deterrence on a retail basis,’ he said. ‘People carry guns in public because other people are carrying guns. It’s literally an arms race, a vicious cycle. There are lots of indications that New York City, by taking guns more seriously and hiring more officers, has gotten a lot of guns off the streets, creating a virtuous cycle.’” NY Times. Chicago faces a huge budget crisis to rub even more salt in its wounds.
Likewise, Chicago has been unable to deploy its less-than-adequate social and police forces to stem significant changes in the local gang configuration. “Many of Chicago’s gangs have fractured, leading to more violence, said Arthur Lurigio, a criminology professor at Loyola University Chicago. While Latino gangs have remained more hierarchical, black gangs have splintered into small, disparate factions, whose disputes are less over territory and profits, and more over personal insults or shames, often fueled by social media, he said.” NY Times. Segregation and poverty add gasoline to this weapons-frenzy-fire.
There are some lessons in all this, from a curriculum that the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, chooses to ignore. The Chicago murder rate is all about the proliferation of guns, by perps andby those who feel the necessity to be that “good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun.” Surrounded by Red States where misinterpreting the plain words of the Second Amendment appears to be a God-given right, Illinois is unable to stop the flood of illicit guns from their neighbors. These unfriendly neighbors seem to miss the first part of this constitutional right: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
There isn’t the slightest doubt that more guns leads to more homicides, and most of those are murder not self-defense (30 to 1!). A perp with a gun, with multiple victims on his mind, can slaughter a whole lot more people in a short time than an angry knife-bearing killer. For those living on farms or open rural areas, why do they remotely believe that their gun beliefs are appropriate for close-quarters, crowded cities where poverty meets ethnic and racial prejudice without an easy escape valve?
I’m Peter Dekom, and hard facts require hard examination, but in the end truth doesn’t care about contrary opinions; it just is.

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