Chicago does not have the strictest gun laws in the country. It’s time for gun lovers to stop spreading that lie.
A decade ago that was indeed a title Chicago wore proudly. We were the only major city that still had an ordinance banning residents from keeping a handgun in their home.
The handgun ban made us the primary target of the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation, and in 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court forced Chicago to fall into line with the rest of the country.
Since then, the courts have peeled off so many layers of our once stellar gun ordinance that it’s barely recognizable. We’re still maneuvering to keep gun stores and shooting ranges from opening in the city limits. But the courts have ruled against us on that, too, so we know it’s just a matter of time.
Remember that old requirement that gun owners in Chicago register their firearms with the city and obtain a permit? Well, that’s gone too.
And thanks to the Illinois General Assembly, which was pressured by the federal courts to pass a concealed carry law in 2013, people can walk the streets of Chicago with a gun attached to their waist and another strapped to their ankle.
Sorry, gun lovers, your attempts to use Chicago as a prop to bolster your claims that gun control laws do nothing to curb gun violence just don’t hold up.
New York, in fact, has stricter gun laws on the books than Chicago. And guess what? Its homicide numbers are heading toward historic lows. Los Angeles has some pretty tough gun laws too. Its homicide numbers also pale compared with Chicago’s.
Those kinds of details don’t fit the conservative, pro-gun narrative, though. To use New York as a talking point, they’d have to admit that strict gun laws might actually have an impact on homicide rates.
We don’t make excuses for our ghastly homicide numbers in Chicago. With 762 people killed last year, no one has to remind us that we have a serious gun problem. We own it. And we have to do something about it.
But we are tired of Donald Trump and pro-gun advocates using our city to promote their political agenda.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dragged Chicago into the fray again on Monday when responding to a reporter’s question about gun policy in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
“One of the things that we don’t want to do is try to create laws that won’t stop these types of things from happening,” Sanders said at a news conference. “I think if you look to Chicago where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes, they have the strictest gun laws in the country and that certainly hasn’t helped there.”
Sanders should listen to U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., who argues that the problem is Chicago being surrounded by red states that have completely surrendered to the pro-gun lobby.
With no gun stores in Chicago and no background check loopholes for private sales, one thing is clear. The guns being used to kill people on the streets aren’t originating in Chicago. They’re coming from someplace else.
When politicians and others repeat that ridiculous statement about Chicago’s gun laws, it shows how out of touch they are with the problems urban areas face when it comes to gun violence.
When it comes to gun laws, big cities are only as strong as the states that border them. And in Chicago’s case, that’s Indiana. Thanks to Vice President Mike Pence, the former governor, Indiana has some of the weakest gun laws in the nation.
While Illinois has gone to great lengths to see that background checks are done for all gun purchases, Indiana has done the opposite. To buy a weapon in Illinois, the owner must have a valid firearms owner’s identification card, issued by the Illinois State Police.
With no permit or license required to purchase a gun in Indiana, it is incredibly easy for a trafficker to drive across the state line, obtain a gun and use it to commit a homicide on the streets of Chicago.
Those with felony convictions commonly use straw purchases, in which they enlist someone with a clean record to purchase multiple guns and bring them into the city.
Law enforcement officials say 60 percent of the guns confiscated on the streets of Chicago come from Indiana, Wisconsin and Mississippi. The other 40 percent come from suburban Cook County and nearby suburbs.
It’s tough, but we can try to sort out the bad apples in our own state and shut them down. But we’re helpless when it comes to regulating Indiana, Wisconsin and Mississippi.
Congress could do something, though. Lawmakers could pass legislation requiring universal background checks. That would close federal loopholes on background checks at gun shows and other private sales.
Congress could also limit the number of guns that can be purchased by one person in a period of time. And lawmakers could toughen penalties for straw purchases.
Military-style assault weapons already are banned in the city of Chicago, but in most other places in Illinois and in most other states, they can be purchased as easily as a handgun. If Congress really wanted to stop massacres like the one in Las Vegas from occurring, lawmakers could pass a federal assault weapons ban to replace the one that expired in 2004.
The gun lovers in Washington don’t want to talk about these things, though. It’s a lot easier to just keep picking on Chicago.
Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.