We take a look at the go-to argument for many gun rights activists.
With a string of mass shootings, the gun rights/gun control debate has started up again. Interestingly enough, the city of Chicago – our hometown – and their tragic record on gun violence has become a central talking point for many gun rights activists. So what’s the claim?
Whenever there’s a debate on gun control, many gun rights advocates always bring up this point.
The claim is actually pretty straight forward; even though the city of Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the nation, it also has one of the highest rates of gun violence in the US. In turn, if stricter gun laws in Chicago couldn’t curb gun violence, what makes people think implementing these laws on a national level will?
According to the Chicago Tribune, as of this writing – July 2016 – over 2,000 individuals have been victims of gun violence in Chicago this year! Currently the city is on pace to easily break 4,000 victims of gun violence (!!!) by the end of 2016!
Even if you were to take Chicago’s population size into account and compare other cities based on per-capita stats, while not looking as bad, it would still be hard to deny Chicago’s gun violence problem. It’s also true that compared to other US cities, it’s a lot harder to legally buy a gun, even though gun rights activists tend to embellish the strictness of the city’s gun control regulations. So with both parts of the argument looking to be true, then you would think the claim is pretty much solid.
Well… not so fast.
Even with both parts of the claim – Chicago being plagued with high levels of gun violence and having the strictest gun laws in the nation – turning out to be true, there are some major caveats here that have to be recognized.
One is the fact that most major researchers who study Chicago gun violence insist that the problem would be worse if it weren’t for the city’s tough gun control measures.
Philip Cook, a public policy professor and economist that works with the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, told Bloomberg Politics that he believes there would be higher rates of gun violence if it weren’t for Chicago’s tough gun laws. This conclusion comes from Cook’s findings in the more than 7,000 guns that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms confiscated from 2009-2013 in the Chicago area. What he found was that 60% of the guns that were confiscated in an arrest were from out of state and more interestingly, 24% of the total guns came from Indiana; a neighboring state that has been known for its lax gun laws.
A similar trend was discovered by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) who tracked the origins of 50,000 confiscated guns over a ten year span (2002-2012). They again found that over half of the guns were flooded into the city by outside states, with almost a quarter of them coming from two states; Mississippi and Indiana, both states known for having strong gun rights legislation.
So there is one of two ways to look at this. You either:
a) Look at Chicago’s gun violence problem as an epidemic that would be much worse if it were not for the city’s strict gun control laws, since purchasing guns within Chicago’s city limits would only add to the already high frequency of gun violence that already exists.
b) You look at Chicago as a case of why gun control measures will never work in the US. Because the gun origin stats show that if criminals want a gun, they will always get them. That means if you were to enforce strict gun control laws nationally, this wouldn’t necessarily curb gun violence in the US, but only make it harder for law abiding citizens to legally obtaining them.
So what does that mean for the original claim; that the city of Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the nation, yet has the highest rates of gun violence in the nation? Honestly it complicates things.
It’s uncertain that Chicago’s gun laws and its gun violence have a solid connection, so because of that the perception of that connection is the major factor here. A big part of this problem has been the lack of government research over gun violence by the federal government over the last couple of years due to Congressional action. Because of this the claim is left to interpretation rather than coming to conclusions based on hard data.
Taking all that into account, the claim becomes suspect and the only real verdict we can give it here is…
(Photo Credits: Pixabay.com, Google Images, New York Times)