The [Thursday] Papers
This just in:
Today, the Northwestern School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic has released Combating Gun Violence in Illinois: Evidence-Based Solutions on behalf of more than 30 scholars and clinical professors from colleges and universities throughout Illinois. In its research paper, the authors start with the premise that every life lost to gun violence is tragic and a call for action.
Illinois already has mandatory minimum prison terms for all gun crimes.
A few comments:
* The evidence is simply overwhelming that mandatory minimum legislation of the sort that has been proposed would not only fail to decrease gun violence, but would cause far more harm than good.
* The "some" claiming that the experience of New York City exemplifies why this legislation should be passed are led by Rahm Emanuel and, secondarily, Garry McCarthy.
* Emanuel and McCarthy have been allowed to get away with making utterly false claims about the New York City experience by a lazy press, the consequences of which could be utterly disastrous.
* Northwestern's research only bolsters what everyone else who has actually studied the matter has found.
"What does the evidence say about mandatory minimums?" John Maki wrote for the Tribune in September.
"Nearly every credible nonpartisan policy group that has examined this issue, from the National Academy of Sciences to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, has agreed: Mandatory prison minimums don't work.
"In an article for the University of Chicago's journal Crime and Justice, University of Minnesota law professor Michael Tonry surveyed 200 years of findings on mandatory minimum sentences and summarized the consensus: 'If policymakers took account of research evidence (and informed practioners' views) existing laws would be repealed and no new ones would be enacted.'"
Unlike the mayor, the police chief, the pols and the editorial boards, Maki's claim has not been refuted. That's because his claim is based on facts, not ignorance, campaign rhetoric and/or demagoguery.
* It's sad that Northwestern felt it had to state that "In its research paper, the authors start with the premise that every life lost to gun violence is tragic and a call for action."
It's like having to affirm one's patriotism by wearing a flag lapel or prefacing a policy position by saying you "support the troops."
Who doesn't believe that every life lost to gun violence is tragic? I think even the gangbangers believe that.
Sad, then, that Northwestern clearly deemed such a statement as necessary because of a climate created by rhetoric like this.
Meanwhile . . .
"The most hotly debated item during [Wednesday's city council] meeting was a resolution with no force of law that urged the General Assembly to increase the penalties for certain gun crimes," the Tribune reports.
"Although the resolution itself did not mention mandatory minimum prison sentences, three African American aldermen decried the effects of such an approach on young men and their families from their communities.
"Nevertheless, the resolution passed with nary a dissent, after some African-American aldermen realized it did not specifically endorse the mandatory minimum sentences Emanuel has been lobbying for."
That was a game. Rahm wasn't even at Wednesday's meeting and the resolution, introduced last month on 9/11, was sponsored by Ald. James Balcer. I don't know if this was a trojan horse from Rahm or simply a meaningless Balcer resolution that mandatory minimum opponents in the council seized upon to vent their frustration with Rahm's plan. But it's clear what Rahm's plan is.
Just a day earlier:
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Tuesday to use his political capital to get state lawmakers to pass tougher illegal firearm possession laws," the Tribune reported.
"The mayor, joined at an event by the parents of gun-crime victims, said he has made personal pleas to lawmakers to support a measure requiring a minimum three-year sentence for illegal gun possession, with 85 percent of the time served behind bars."
Now we'll see if lawmakers find personal pleas more persuasive than overwhelming evidence.
Even without mandatory minimum language per se in the ordinance the council passed Wednesday, it got reported that way in some quarters.
"Chicago aldermen are urging the Illinois General Assembly to approve Mayor Emanuel's proposal to impose a three-year mandatory minimum sentence for most gun crimes, reports WBBM Political Editor Craig Dellimore."
That's simply not true, even if Balcer muddied the waters by backing Rahm's proposal during the council debate.
Ultimately, the Balcer resolution is meaningless - unless Rahm takes it to Springfield to bolster his case. That's why some council opponents wanted it on the record that even if they were voting in favor of the resolution, they didn't support what was missing in it but clearly intended. There is no consensus on the council when it comes to mandatory minimums.
And it probably pleases the mayor more than actually passing legislation to see a stream of headlines like "Emanuel Pushes For Tougher Gun Penalties."
Well, what could be wrong with that?
Tell you what, I'm proposing a 5-year mandatory minimum. I'll await the headline "Rhodes Tougher On Crime Than Rahm."
That's how he manipulates you. How about "Emanuel Pushes For Gun Penalties Shown To Have No Effect On Crime." Biased? Not in the least. Unlike Rahm's headline, mine has the benefit of being true.
Gee, this looks familiar.
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Posted on October 17, 2013
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