The [Tuesday] Papers
2. The Tribune's graphic this morning called "Tracking Killings Before And After Chicago's Handgun Ban" is all very interesting, but does it tell us anything?
According to the Trib's artwork, the city's firearms-related murder rate was 15.7 in 1970 and 14.4 in 2008. The handgun ban went into effect in 1982. So it worked a little! Or did it?
Similarly, the firearms-related murder rate rose from 18.3 in 1980 to 21.6 in 1990. So it didn't work at all! Or did it?
It is facile to suggest, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and others do, that ongoing handgun violence in the city proves the ban hasn't "worked."
After all, the ban only applied within the city limits. Maybe if it had been taken up by the suburbs, then the exurbs, then the state and, hey, maybe even the whole country, handgun violence would have plummeted. Maybe what failed, then, was the policy of everybody else!
More to the point, there is no way of knowing if handgun violence would have been worse this whole time had it been far easier to acquire guns in the city.
"Regulating criminal access to handguns can be effective in making it more difficult for youths and criminals to obtain guns, according to a new study based on interviews with gang members and illicit gun dealers in two high-crime neighbourhoods in Chicago," a study published in the The Economic Journal in 2007 found.
"'The common perception is that handguns are everywhere, like grains of sand on the beach,' says Philip Cook, a Duke University public policy professor and co-author of the study. 'We find that isn't true. Guns are quite scarce in some American cities, and scarcity reduces gun use in crime' . . .
"One of the study's co-authors, Sudhir Venkatesh of Columbia University, conducted more than 500 interviews with gang members, gun dealers, prostitutes, police, professional thieves and public school security guards in two high-crime South Side Chicago neighbourhoods in order to learn about prices, waiting times and other details of the illegal gun market.
"His interviews describe a black market in which criminals, unable to find a gun, sometimes hire brokers - and even they fail to complete a transaction 30-40% of the time. When guns do change hands, they are often of poor quality and sold at high prices. Ammunition is similarly hard to come by."
I'm not thrilled with the Supreme Court's ruling, nor its interpretation of the Second Amendment, though I fail to see how it somehow wouldn't apply to states and cities.
A good question being forced upon city leaders now, though, is whether alternative methods of regulating gun possession might achieve better results.
Also, while I'm in favor of gun control, there is something wrong on both sides of the debate about the efficacy of guns in homes for safety purposes.
First, in often publicized cases where someone successfully shoots an intruder, the assumption is made that the victim's life was in danger. More likely, they were in danger of getting their stereo stolen.
Second, even acknowledging that and research that shows that on the whole a home is made less safe with a gun in it, each individual ought not be governed by the ineptitude of others. Cars are dangerous with certain people behind the wheel, too, but that shouldn't mean that I shouldn't be allowed to own one. Each person, it might be argued, should get to make that choice for themselves.
So it's a more complicated issue than the rhetoric would imply, and like nearly all of our public issues, it would be a lot easier to resolve if we got past the sloganeering and talking points and started thinking more thoughtfully and creatively about the problem at hand.
I couldn't find it this morning but I recall a somewhat recent New Yorker article explaining that for a very long time in our nation's history the Second Amendment wasn't thought to have anything to do with personal gun ownership. Apparently the Constitution is a living document after all!
Finally, the city bans murder as well as parking in a handicapped spot without a permit, but both still occur. Should those laws be dispatched, then?
So let's not use that argument. If the ban is unconstitutional, so be it. If it's less effective than other means, so be it. But it's hard to see how it hasn't helped in some way, and it certainly doesn't appear to have hurt.
3. Similarly, this Stantis cartoon is factually insubstantial, if not ignorant on multiple levels. Just for starters, bullets are hardly whizzing throughout (Official) Chicago, and compared to recent years and even recent decades, there are a lot fewer bullets whizzing through the air than there used to be. It's also hard to see how more people with guns won't result in Stantis having to add more bullets to his picture, unless he's also going to back stringent regulations that will somehow reduce gun violence. Back to the drawing board, please.
6. .XXX On The Way!
There was another version of this headline I almost went with, but I thought it might be too obvious, and even a step further than I would like to go on this site. But just barely.
The Beachwood Tip Line: On the way.
Posted on June 29, 2010
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