If you live in the Chicago metropolitan area, you can’t not know this. At a time when the Republican presidential nominee says the country does not need more police officers, the murder rate in our fair city is out of control. As Chuck Goudie of our local ABC affiliate reported this past Wednesday:
Murders are up so far this year in 24 Chicago neighborhoods. The increases have resulted in 216 people killed compared to 158 on this day last year.
That’s a 37% increase over last year for the period from January 1 to June 6, and puts the city on pace to exceed 400 murders this year. And to no one’s surprise, Goudie’s report reveals that 80% of Chicago’s homicides were “gun related.”
Actually, that the murder rate is up 37% in June represents a slight improvement from earlier in the year. Just about a month ago, NPR’s David Schaper reported that murders in Chicago were up – get this – 54% over 2011. Likewise, according to Schaper’s report, “the number of non-fatal shootings [in Chicago was] up 20 percent from a year ago.”
Both the NPR report from May and Chuck Goudie’s report earlier this week cite predictable factors for the increase in murders here: Chicago’s unusually difficult gang problem; the fact that our weather turned warm much earlier than normal this year (March set a record for warm temperatures and gang violence); and then, to quote Chicago Police Supt. Gary McCarthy, there’s “the proliferation of firearms.”
It’s also become fashionable to blame Supt. McCarthy himself, at least to some extent, as Schaper’s report hints: “[S]everal months after McCarthy disbanded a citywide gang strike force, the homicide rate has soared.” That’s because Supt. McCarthy has taken a decidedly less militaristic approach to police work than his predecessor, former FBI agent Jody Weis, who resigned in March 2011 following the election of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. I think in the long run Supt. McCarthy will be vindicated, that honest-to-goodness police work – as in walking the beat, interacting with people, building trust, and just being present – is the best way to combat crime, as opposed to armored vehicles, military fatigues, riot gear and increasingly invasive electronic surveillance.
In any event, whether Supt. McCarthy’s approach proves to be right or wrong in the long run, I find it odd that with all the hand-wringing over Chicago’s escalating homicides, no one wants to ask this question: Is it possible that there’s a causal link between the spike in killings, the vast majority of which are “gun-related,” and the Supreme Court’s recent decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago, 130 S. Ct. 3020 (2010), which struck down the city’s handgun ban? Supt. McCarthy talks about the “proliferation of firearms,” suggesting that easy access to guns, in part, fuels the increase in murders; but no one wants to talk about why guns are easier to access these days.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing that the increase in Chicago’s gun homicides necessarily is related to, let alone caused by, the McDonald decision. That would be a classic post-hoc logical fallacy. I am, however, saying that the increase in gun deaths in the years following McDonald should, at the very least, lead to a serious discussion on the issue – a discussion that no one, so far, is willing to have.
Gun control advocates always worried that easier legal access to weapons would lead to an increase in violent crime, while gun rights advocates always assured us that easier legal access to weapons would have the opposite effect. In Chicago, at any rate, the statistics belie the pro-gun argument.
[Photo credit: Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune / June 8, 2012]