CHICAGO — 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.
So, because strict gun laws have done nothing to stem the tide of homicidal violence in Chicago, this only proves that the entire nation must be put under a ban, even those people — the vast majority of gun owners — who use guns responsibly, as is their Second Amendment right? Really?
I don’t care for the NRA’s absolutism. I have no problem in principle with gun regulations, up to a point (e.g., I would favor, for example, laws banning guns for felons and the mentally ill, banning gun shows, banning large-capacity clips). But the zealous ideological purity with which gun control proponents treat gun bans makes no sense to me. I’ve lived much of my life in East Coast cities, and the absolute freakout many middle-class, educated Easterners have about guns is, to me, inexplicable. Europeans are the same way. I mentioned on this blog how unnerved a French couple visiting me in St. Francisville was to learn that I had two guns in the house. If I had told them I had king cobras resting in the closet, they would scarcely have been less frightened.
Today there will be a hearing in Congress about gun control. Again, I am not opposed to having this conversation, and I cringe in advance of expecting the NRA’s representative saying something stupid, e.g., we should put armed guards in every school. Still, I also cringe to think about how the debate will be driven by emotion. Don’t you care about the Sandy Hook victims? and so forth.
Never mind that the Sandy Hook shooter used guns that had been legally obtained under strict gun control laws. Never mind that he could have killed as many children with pistols as with his “assault rifle.”
Never mind that Jeffrey Goldberg is surely right that there are already far, far too many guns in American life to make strict gun control effective.
Never mind that the assault rifle ban of the 1990s is widely believed to have been a failure.
Never mind that according to FBI statistics, 90 percent of gun homicides are committed with handguns, and only five percent with rifles (hence the failure of the 1994 ban).
Never mind that according to a survey cited by the Justice Department, 80 percent of inmates imprisoned for a crime involving a gun say they got the gun through family, friends, or illegal means (which is to say, they didn’t go through the channels that would have allowed gun control to prevent them from obtaining the weapon).
Never mind that, as the Annenberg Center explains, the issue is a lot more complicated than partisans — especially anti-gun partisans — say.
We Must Do Something, Or We Have Failed The Children! Wash, rinse, repeat.