Tonight I watched the show on CNN by Anderson Cooper about gun violence in the south side of Chicago which has claimed the lives of 28 inner city school children so far this year. The most recent victim, Blair Holt, 17, a high school jr. just wrapping up his school year, was the most recent victim of random violence. Normally he takes a 40 minute ride on a CTA bus to his grandparents’ store to spend the late afternoon until his parents pick him up. He was on the bus with several of his school mates when a gang banger boarded the bus and opened fire at a rival gang member with a semi-automatic handgun, who apparently was unconcerned about hurting anybody else. Five students were shot, but Blair was the most seriously injured with a wound to the chest, with internal bleeding. He died later that night around 9 p.m.
Blair was not a gang member. His future was bright and he had set high goals for himself. His mother was a fire fighter and his father was a policeman. He had a strong and loving family background. But he was aware of the violent death culture around him and had no illusions about the possibility that his young life could be snuffed out at any instant. The fact that his life was cut so short by a random act of violence is a horrible tragedy.
But he’s only one of 28 such cases this year, of school children in Chicago, killed, not on school property but on their way to or from school, and some even in their own homes.
People in Chicago are angry and upset. There was a protest, and locals demanded safe passage to and from school. Other people are demanding that the state legislature pass stricter gun laws.
Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools had this to say when interviewed by Anderson Cooper: “The common denominator in Columbine, Virginia Tech, and all the other school shootings, is guns. People should not have guns. We as a society value our rights to keep and bear arms more than we value the lives of our children. It’s wrong.”
I’ll tell you what’s wrong: this kind of thinking that taking guns away from law abiding citizens is going to solve this problem. It’s wrong headed and simplistic. It doesn’t address the source of the problem, which is the violent inner city gang culture and morality that says “don’t be a snitch.”
Gun Control advocates point to countries like Australia and Great Britain, where they’ve outlawed gun ownership by citizens. Gun deaths have gone down. True enough. But now, only criminals have guns. The law abiding citizens have turned theirs in, and are now unarmed potential victims. Many criminals have kept their firearms, but the others have simply turned to knives, chains and other “contact weapons”. Violent crimes have not gone down, because violent criminals know they won’t get shot. Violent crimes have actually risen and the crime rate is spiraling upward.
You can pass laws making guns illegal, and the law abiding citizens will turn in their guns, but not the criminals. Criminals know that strict gun laws guarantee safety for armed criminals, so it doesn’t make sense to turn in their guns. Enforcing existing laws, attacking the gang problem instead of the so called gun problem, prosecuting criminals instead of gun owners, might have a more positive effect than just taking otherwise legal guns away from otherwise law abiding citizens. Criminalizing gun ownership is not going to solve the problem of inner city violence and death among inner city school kids on their way to and from school. Legal gun owners aren’t killing school kids in Chicago. All you do by passing more laws is make more people criminals. Enforce existing law vigorously and things might change. Make criminals responsible and accountable for their crimes, and things might change. Put the blame on guns, and make guns the villain, and nothing will change.
City and State executives who are responsible for enforcing the law aren’t taking that responsibility seriously, and only muddy the waters by calling upon the legislatures to write more laws with stronger enforcement provisions. But they feel the pressure to do something, anything that will make it look like they're actually concerned and want to do something, so that’s what they do. And legislatures add to the problem by responding to the pressure to pass more laws instead of sticking to their real function, which is to provide actual funding for vigorous enforcement of existing laws. And the revolving door that characterizes our current judicial system really adds to the problem by turning violent criminals loose because the jails and prisons are over crowded and incapable of holding our deserving criminal population. But let’s make more criminals by outlawing gun ownership by law abiding, non-violent citizens. That makes a lot sense, doesn't it?