Seven hundred and sixty-two. That is how many people were murdered in Chicago last year; an appalling number not seen in two decades. Twelve people were killed over Father’s Day weekend in 2016. Another dozen were murdered over the recent Christmas holiday. And, the city’s liberal leaders -- including “The Godfather” Rahm Emanuel -- stand slack-jawed and clueless at how to stop this tide of violence washing over the Windy City.
Obviously, the City has a serious problem. But it is not a gun violence problem, or a gun control problem. Chicago is dealing with a complex and multi-faceted cultural problem of violence; the resolution of which requires throwing out the Left’s usual playbook -- blame it on the Second Amendment – and replacing it with a “pro-police, tough-on-crime” strategy.
Unfortunately for the citizens of this major metropolitan area, this is something Chicago officials appear unwilling to do. To them, it’s not Chicago’s problem, but everyone else’s. “We border Indiana and Wisconsin, which have really lax gun laws,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told CNN. “We know that people from Chicago go across the border, fill up gym bags with illegal weapons from gun shows and things of that nature and they come back here and sell them to the gangs.” This is the same song and dance trotted out by former New York City Mayor Bloomberg, whenever he was questioned about high levels of gun violence in the Big Apple – blame other states for your failures.
Illinois legislators see the problem through the same blinders as city officials. In recent years, they have made it increasingly difficult, if not virtually impossible for low income residents -- who are among those most at risk to be injured or killed by gun violence – to defend themselves by buying and possessing firearms for self-defense.
Caught in the middle between Emanuel and his gun-control gang at City Hall, and the Democrat-controlled state legislature in Springfield, are the victims of their shortsightedness.
As shocking as are Chicago’s 2016 murder statistics, this level of violence is neither a new phenomenon facing a major city, nor one requiring rocket science to resolve. Other cities, including Richmond, Virginia in the 1990s and New York City in the 1980s, faced high levels of gang activity and gun violence. They stemmed the tide in large measure by effective policing, and by institutionalizing cooperation between law enforcement at all levels of government – federal, state and local.
Fundamentally, what Chicago needs is strong, consistent policing; along with a political structure and community leaders who actually support the police, and who will work collaboratively to build a criminal justice system that is swift, consistent and certain.
An example of this approach can be found in the 1990s, in a crime strategy adopted by then-Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia and the United States Attorney’s office, responding to a rash of gun crimes in Richmond. These bipartisan officials (Gilmore was Republican and the U.S. Attorney was an appointee of President Bill Clinton) took the position that anyone caught using a firearm in the commission of a crime, would be turned over to federal authorities for prosecution. This reflected the fact that the more extensive resources available to federal prosecutors and the tougher sentences under the federal system, meant that cases did not languish in the state system, and that once convicted, the criminals faced lengthy mandatory sentences. “Project Exile” worked, and gun violence dropped significantly.
Unfortunately, neither the current mayor of Chicago nor the current U.S. Attorney General, would support such an approach; both are too busy blaming the police and the Second Amendment for gun violence.
In fact, a 2014 audit of federal prosecutions shows a dramatic decrease in federal gun-crime prosecutions under Obama, as the DOJ has found it more politically expedient to harass gun show attendees, than actually pursue the criminals on the street responsible for the violence such as witnessed on Chicago’s mean streets.
But there is a sparkle of light at the end of the tunnel.
President-elect Trump, and his choice for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions, understand that it is the criminals who commit gun violence; and that resolving the crisis requires a refocusing of priorities and tactics within the law enforcement and criminal justice systems. Therein may lie the best hope for Chicago’s beleaguered citizens now being whipsawed between merciless thugs and gangs and do-nothing political leaders.