The numbers are maddening and heartbreaking: 614 Chicagoans were shot in July 2021, compared to 561 in the same month last year, per the NBC5 Chicago.
According to the same report, there have been 1,973 shootings in the city, with 2,471 total victims during the first seven months of this year. Both of those numbers are up over last year’s statistics and dwarf the numbers in 2019, when there were 1,210 shootings and 2,471 total victims.
There have been 445 homicides in Chicago through the end of July 2021. To put the homicide number in perspective, from Memorial Day 2020 through Memorial Day 2021, 18 U.S. service members died supporting overseas operations, according to the Military Times.
Chicago is not alone.
Per Axios, a sample of 37 cities with data available for the first three months of 2021 indicates that murders are up 18 percent over the same period in 2020. This continued increase comes after a year in which major U.S. cities experienced a 33 percent rise in homicides, and 63 of the 66 largest police jurisdictions saw an increase in at least one category of violent crime, according to a report from the Major Cities Chiefs Association, as reported by CNN.
This rise in crime, especially gun violence, has driven two opposite reactions: a spike in gun sales as people look to protect themselves and their families, and a renewed call for more gun control.
The FBI performed 39.7 million background checks on people seeking to buy firearms and accessories in 2020, more than any previous year. According to statistics reported by CNN, 23 million guns were purchased in 2020 and more than 5 million Americans were first time gun buyers. This trend has continued in 2021, with gun sales surging in January by 60 percent to 4,137, 480. Illinois led the charge in January, with 1,002,118 guns sold in the state – 24 percent of the national sales for that month.
It isn’t just white, conservative men purchasing guns. Women and Black Americans have purchased guns at a record pace since 2020. Black Americans bought guns at a rate 58 percent higher than in previous years, the largest increase for any demographic group, per Forbes.
In addition to increased firearm sales, the number of people legally carrying concealed weapons is increasing. Per John Lott’s Crime Prevention Center, there are 19.48 million people licensed to carry a concealed weapon, 820,000 more than in 2019 – the number of people who carry is likely much larger as 19 states do not require a permit to do so.
Gun control advocates frequently claim that an average of nearly 40,000 people die from gun violence each year and that we must enact “common sense” gun laws to reduce that number. What they fail to tell their audience is that most of those deaths are from suicide. Every year from 2015-2019 an average of 23,500 people died from a gun-related suicide while 14,000 people died from a gun-related homicide, per the CDC.
Joe Biden has called for new gun laws as well as an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines. On April 28, 2021, the President gave a gun violence prevention speech at the White House, wherein he stated: “No amendment to the Constitution is absolute…from the very beginning you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own.”
That statement is one of several myths that gun control advocates perpetuate as they call for new gun laws.
Gun Control Myth 1: Gun control laws have existed since the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791.
The first piece of national gun control legislation was passed on June 26, 1934, as part of the National Firearms Act (NFA). The NFA imposed a tax on the manufacture, sale, and transportation of firearms listed in the law. In the Revolutionary War period, private citizens were allowed to own any and all weapons they could purchase or manufacture, including cannons – otherwise, the Privateers who served during the war would not have enjoyed their success.
Gun Control Myth 2: Banning assault weapons will reduce gun violence.
There is no commonly accepted definition of an assault weapon. But let us assume that all rifles can be defined as an assault weapon. Per the Washington Examiner, in 2019, rifles of all kind made up just 2.6 percent of gun homicides. Of the 13,927 murdered with a gun in 2019, only 364 of them had their lives taken by a rifle of any kind.
Per the FBI, in any given year, for every person murdered with a rifle, there were 17.5 murdered with handguns, 1.6 with hands and fists, and 1.1 with blunt instruments. More people die falling out of bed and are killed by hippopotamuses each year, 450 and 500 respectively, than die from a homicide committed with a rifle in America.
Gun Control Myth 3: Universal background checks to prevent criminals from obtaining guns.
Federal law requires criminal background checks for all firearm sales and transfers by licensed dealers. The challenge is that most criminals do not legally obtain their guns. A 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI) reported that approximately 1 in 5 (21 percent) of all state and federal prisoners reported possessing or using a firearm when they committed the offense for which they were serving time. Of those people, only 7 percent of prisoners purchased the weapon under their own name from a licensed firearms dealer. More than half of prisoners (56 percent) had stolen the weapon, found it at the scene of a crime, or obtained it off the street or from the underground market.
Gun Control Myth 4: Closing the “gun show loophole” will prevent criminals from obtaining guns.
In his April 8 speech referenced above, President Biden stated that “but you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check.” Even the left-wing PolitiFact ruled the statement “mostly false.” When a federally licensed seller is a vendor at a gun show, they must run a background check on the buyer, just as they would if they were at their local gun store. Non-licensed sellers do not have to run background checks.
Even if true and there are no background checks conducted for any sale at a gun show, would closing that loophole reduce the gun-driven homicide rate? Referencing the same SPI study above, among prisoners who possessed a firearm during their offense, 0.8 percent obtained the firearm at a gun show.
What can be done? Are there policies and laws that could reduce the amount of gun violence in the United States?
Criminals, by definition, do not abide by the law. It is already against the law to commit murder or to rob a bank, so thinking that creating more gun free zones or banning a high-capacity magazine will deter a criminal from committing a crime is ludicrous.
According to the Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy, and Practice at Loyola University, Chicago, more than 80 percent of those arrested for a gun crime in Illinois between 2009 and 2019 had at least one prior arrest and 50 percent of those arrested for the commission of a violent crime with a gun had a prior conviction. Thus, we should increase the penalties for certain types of gun crimes, including the illegal possession of a firearm, using a firearm in gang-related crime, using a firearm in the commission of a drug offense, using a firearm in a crime against a minor, illegal discharge of a weapon, etc.
We also need to keep accused felons in jail while awaiting trial. According to CWBChicago, through July 28, 2021, 32 people have been accused of killing, trying to kill, or shooting someone in Chicago while awaiting trial for another felony.”
Increasing the penalties for certain gun crimes or keeping accused felons in jail while awaiting trial will not stop crime but will keep those who commit gun crime off the street for longer periods of time.
Additionally, we need to “flood the zone.”
According to Thomas Abt, writing in The Trace, “more than a quarter of homicides in 2015 occurred in neighborhoods containing just 1.5 percent of the American population and collectively covering an area smaller than Green Bay, Wisconsin.” This data is supported by a study by the Crime Prevention Research Center, which showed that 68 percent of murders committed in the United States occurred in 5 percent of the nation’s counties. An increased police presence in these areas would both reduce the amount of firearm-related crime and increase the likelihood that those committing firearm-related crimes will be apprehended.
Last, we must examine the social issues that drive gun crime. Neighborhood and faith-based groups should partner with local government and police officials to implement anti-violence campaigns and programs, raze or repair abandoned buildings, improve street lighting in certain areas, etc.
There is no easy answer, but punishing law-abiding gun owners and burdening them with additional laws and regulations will not solve a gun violence challenge in America.