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Chicago Becomes Exhibit A For Both Sides In The Gun Control Debate

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Chicago Becomes Exhibit A For Both Sides In The Gun Control Debate


By Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — One evening in late August, not three blocks from President Barack Obama’s Chicago home, someone in a passing car pulled up to a silver Volkswagen and fired several shots through the driver’s side window, killing the driver.

The suspected gang shooting happened close to a playground, an elementary school and a high school, where football practice was wrapping up for the night.

The crime terrified Obama’s old neighbors and highlighted just how closely the problem of gun violence hits for the president as it rages unabated in Chicago. Obama’s home city is at the center of a debate about the effectiveness of the kinds of gun laws the president backs.

Critics say the stream of deadly shootings are proof that gun laws don’t work, given the tough stance Chicago officials adopted toward gun ownership in the 1980s and 1990s.

But Obama’s team believes that Chicago, with its 408 homicides so far this year, is evidence of the need for exactly what he’s pushing: national laws that make it harder to get around the local restrictions simply by driving across a state or city line.

“It’s the patchwork of laws that doesn’t serve us,” said one Obama adviser. “People just go to other jurisdictions with looser laws.”

Obama will talk about the need for tougher gun laws with police chiefs gathered in Chicago on Tuesday, aides say, as part of a broader conversation about violence and how police can work more effectively with their communities to combat it.

He’s traveling to Chicago because that’s the site of the annual gathering of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, but advisers say he’s well aware of the symbolism in returning to his hometown amid this debate.

Chicago has long been a battleground for both pro- and anti-gun forces. Three decades ago, in the wake of the assassination attempts on President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, the City Council banned new sales and registration of handguns in 1982. Chicago was the first major city to take that step.

Now, with Obama renewing his rhetoric about more gun control in the wake of massacres at a church in South Carolina and a community college in Oregon, and considering imposing gun safety rules by executive order, critics once again are pointing to the president’s hometown for proof of the folly.

Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie have talked about gun deaths in Chicago in arguing against the need for stricter gun-safety laws.

“You look at Chicago, it’s got the toughest gun laws in the United States,” Trump told ABC News this month. “You look at other places where they have gun laws that are very tough, they do, generally speaking, worse than anybody else.”

The argument isn’t as clear-cut as the candidates make it. Although the City Council drew attention for its strict gun laws in the 1980s, the Supreme Court decided in 2010 that Chicago’s handgun ban violated the Second Amendment.

Academics have never conclusively proved a causal relationship between tougher gun laws and lower crime rates, though nationwide surveys conducted by gun control groups strongly suggest one.

That’s enough for the president to conclude that tougher laws are worth a try, but not enough for skeptics who think it doesn’t merit government intrusion into private gun ownership.
Chicago offers evidence for both sides.

For gun control advocates, Illinois is something of a model. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave Illinois a B-plus grade in 2014 for its laws, behind only a handful of states with tougher regulations.

But at the same time, Chicago has seen a spike in violence, inspiring the nickname “Chi-raq.” The city has recorded almost as many homicides so far this year as it did in all of last year. In August alone, the month that the suspected gang shooting occurred near the president’s home, there were 54 homicides.

“Chicago just does not look like a good case study for gun control,” said Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at Northwestern University Law School who researches and writes on the subject. “That’s a reality that all who support gun control proposals have to keep in mind. The world is permeable.”

But for Obama’s neighbors, including the lawmaker who took his seat in the Illinois Senate, the Chicago ordinances and Illinois laws never had a chance to work because of the city’s proximity to states with much laxer laws. The city is within a two-hour drive of Milwaukee, and Gary, Ind., is so close it is practically a suburb. Their states earned a C-minus and D-minus for their gun laws, respectively.

In fact, about 60 percent of the guns associated with crimes in Chicago come from out of state, according to Chicago Police Department statistics. Mississippi, with an F on the score card, is another source.

“You can pass all the laws you want, but if people can just drive to Indiana, Wisconsin and Mississippi, it doesn’t make a difference if nothing is done at the federal level,” said state Sen. Kwame Raoul.

On Raoul’s street, not far from the Obama family home, there have been two shootings in the last two months. He is so worried about the safety of his teenagers that he doesn’t let them walk anywhere. He drives them.

When he travels to Springfield, the capital, to debate the subject with lawmakers from around the state, however, he worries about the overemphasis on urban violence. In a recent debate about the heroin problem seeping out of cities and into rural areas, he drew a parallel to gun violence.

“These problems don’t remain quarantined,” Raoul said. “They are coming to your community, too.”

Skeptics such as Kontorovich agree that borders governing gun laws are porous, but they question whether another layer of laws or executive orders will make any difference.

“The reality is that state and local borders are permeable,” Kontorovich said. “But national licensing laws will only regulate the legal market, not the black market.”

(c)2015 Tribune Co. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



  1. 13factfinder October 26, 2015

    Nice “rebrand” of gun control…….. now calling it “gun safety” my azz! Any weasel way to push an agenda… oh my God. Can we still say God you lefties? America sees it as “control” and nothing else. That’s why this BS fails every time. “control” the illegal immigration if you want to control something! With al the illegals and new import criminal so-called “immigrants” Obama has brought us; we need guns to thwart any Muslim- attempted take over!

    1. johninPCFL October 27, 2015

      Reagan saw the wisdom of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the insane. Of course, being shot by a loonie seemed to help his concentration.

      1. DEFENDER88 October 27, 2015

        Is that why he emptied the Institutions so the mental cases could be treated at home with anti-depressants so now they can just walk down the street and shoot up a school?

  2. Otto Greif October 26, 2015

    Chicago shows us blacks shouldn’t be allowed to own guns.

    1. JPHALL October 26, 2015

      Why not? They have 2nd Amendment rights too.

    2. yabbed October 27, 2015

      We don’t need your racism this early in the morning.

    3. DEFENDER88 October 27, 2015

      That comment shows you should not be commenting on guns.

      1. Otto Greif October 28, 2015

        Blacks commit a hugely disproportionate amount of gun violence. We should target gun control at the source of the problem.

  3. 1standlastword October 26, 2015

    Ch-Iraq is one of many American urban centers that seems to have a very high concentration of incorrigible career thugs that use guns to commit crimes: This is the “real” problem and a main reason why law abiding citizens have legal carry.

    Why not go after the thugs real hard!!

    If you are a felon in possession of a gun during the commission of a crime …automatic 25 years for the 1st offense, 50 years for the second and life for the third!!

    If you are a shop owner and you fail to do due diligence I say one year suspension for the first offense and repeat offenders should have their license revoked

    These are candidate solutions for gun crime that a politician wouldn’t like! ….That’s right “solutions a politician wouldn’t like”

    And we don’t have to wonder why!

    note: I’ve noticed a spate of incidences of legal carry folks misusing and in some cases out right abusing their legal right to carry. I’ve also noticed that in those few cases they don’t evade the law like criminals “always do” thus the intent to obey the law albeit poor training, poor judgment or both

    1. johninPCFL October 27, 2015

      10-20-life is already on the books in many locales. The fear is that a career criminal who faces no more punishment (life) for killing a witness than for the crime itself is more likely to kill all of the witnesses. We’ll see over the next few decades whether that fear is founded.

      1. 1standlastword October 27, 2015

        Then are problem extends to lawyers and judges. It’s the legal system…Oh what a big surprise

    2. bikejedi October 27, 2015

      I agree

  4. yabbed October 27, 2015

    You don’t have to cross state lines to get a gun to return to Chicago with. All you have to do is go to one of the many gun shops outside the city and buy a gun. Cities can’t control guns. States can’t control guns, either. We need universal federal gun control laws that prevent guns from getting into the hands of the wrong people. Nothing will keep a serious criminal from getting a gun any more than laws against any criminal statute erases those crimes from existence. But we have laws against drunk driving even though people still drink and drive. We have laws against assault even though assaults happen every day. Any sane person would prefer to encounter an assault with a knife than face someone with a gun.

    1. bikejedi October 27, 2015

      Criminals don’t get their guns legally ..Mostly they buy stolen guns from other criminals

      1. bobnstuff October 27, 2015

        At some point that gun was legal and then was sold illegally. It’s at that point that the law needs to be placed. National gun laws, enforced every where. Hand guns seem to be the gun of choice and should be the most controlled. Make them just like cars with titles and owners cards.

  5. FireBaron October 27, 2015

    You want to stop gun violence? Let’s have real jobs available – not a series of McJobs with little pay or benefits. Once the jobs are there, people will stay in school. Better education and jobs are the only true way out of the cycle of violence

    1. bikejedi October 27, 2015

      That would help .In Chicago for instance Black Youth unemployment is at all time highs and hovers around 50 % . Meanwhile Obama is trying to grant Amnesty to millions of Illegals through EO . Those Illegals will steal even more jobs from our own citizens

  6. bikejedi October 27, 2015

    Ask anyone who lives in Chicago as I do and they will tell you that the Liberal gun laws don’t work …It’s real simple criminals don’t obey laws nor care about them . Liberal laws only affect the law abiding citizens …They take their rights and freedoms away while denying them the ability to defend themselves..Chicago had a gun ban for 32 years and the takeaway from that is that we have a higher murder rate per capita than NY and LA combined . Chicago should hire more cops and allow them to arrest criminals .Liberals should look at gun control from a sentencing standpoint ..Right now the average UUW conviction carries only 2 years in Illinois with most getting probation …Change that to a mandatory 10 year minimum sentence with no leeway for the judge and no early out and gang bangers won’t carry anymore.


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