Now that Chicago's gun ban has been reversed, city officials need to get creative about how they lower the demand for violent weapons.
Anticipating today's inevitable U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Reader's Mick Dumke reports that the Daley administration has already submitted an ordinance to the Chicago City Council's Police and Fire Committee that would impose new restrictions on the sale of handguns in the city. Details are thin so far, but Chairman Anthony Beale (9th Ward) hinted that it will be a topic of conversation during the committee's scheduled meeting tomorrow. "We are a country of laws," Daley added at an afternoon press conference today. "Not a nation of guns."
As the gun control debate heats back up and the city plots its future path, it's worth sorting through a few things. First, while it may have been correctly decided, the Supreme Court decision erases a ban that was moderately successful at keeping guns off the streets.
Robert Loerzel's short 2008 piece in Chicago Magazine is instructive here. While police confiscation rates over the past decade were still extremely high, research shows that guns are indeed harder to buy and more expensive in Chicago than in other cities. Logic suggests that some would-be criminals on the margins were likely dissuaded from obtaining a deadly weapon as a result, even if gun show loopholes and illegal activity provided a steady supply of weapons into neighborhoods across Chicago.
What options, then, does the city have to replicate its 28-year statute? The Tribune's Dahleen Glanton assessed some potential alternatives earlier this month:
Chicago already requires registration of rifles and shotguns, which are legal in the city, and those regulations could easily be applied to handguns, according to the city's corporation counsel, Mara Georges. The city also has the option of rewriting its current ordinance to include stronger, more controversial measures, such as databases that track a gun from the manufacturer to the gun shop to its current owner, and ballistic fingerprinting, which requires manufacturers to test-fire guns and keep a record of the unique ballistic markings left on bullets and shell casings.
Illinois' own Rep. Mike Quigley -- a strong defender of gun restrictions -- says the federal government must do more to prevent the sale of weapons at gun shows if no background check is required. From a statement this morning:
Today, there is sensible, bi-partisan legislation before Congress that would close the gun show loophole which inexplicably permits felons, terrorists, and the mentally ill to purchase weapons without a background check. The tragedy at Columbine a decade ago and the recent Pentagon shooting share a common trait: the firearms used in each shooting spree originated from a gun show. A recent gun show audit conducted by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed that 74 percent of sellers approached by investigators completed sales to people who appeared to be criminals or straw purchasers. Inexplicably, special interests and powerful lobbies in Washington have prevented this measure from passing.
To keep the price of guns high, the city (or state) could also consider imposing an excise tax on gun transactions along the lines of a cigarette or soda tax. A government's most efficient means to discourage a given behavior, after all, is to make it prohibitive to purchase.
And because the gun ban never effectively erased violent crime, the city's crime discussion needs to be broadened to include antidotes to the root causes of violence: more (and better) jobs, increased support for schools and law enforcement, and a more humane drug policy. Lowering the demand for guns is the best way to keep them off the streets.
Image via Flickr.