As published in the Illinois Leader
Operating on the notion that misery loves company, and desiring to help Chicago Mayor Richard Daley feel better about his city's appalling murder rate, I submit these headlines, all of them from Chicago or suburban newspapers since 2001:
"8 slain at council meeting"
"Teen wounds 5 in tech school"
"Teens arrested in plot to kill teachers"
"Suspected gang shooting leaves 4 dead, 2 injured"
"Man kills ex-bosses, principal, himself"
"Gunman kills self, 7 others"
The incidents these headlines describe occurred in France, Netherlands, Austria, Japan, Germany and Italy, respectively.
I found these headlines and many others like them in the World or International sections of local newspapers. Careful reading proves a fact that Mayor Daley and most of this nation's gun-control advocates do not want you and me to know: Gun control does not mean crime control.
In these and many other industrialized countries that ban or severely restrict guns, crime is soaring. Meanwhile, violent crime in the U.S. is at 30-year lows, and gun-related deaths from all causes are at the lowest levels in nearly 40 years.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year reported that gun deaths in the United States have fallen to the lowest levels since 1966. (emphasis added.) Gun injuries fell across all three categories of intent -- assault, accidental and intentional self-infliction, according to the report.
Astounding as this may be to readers used to hearing about America's "culture of violence," a person is safer here than in England, France, Germany, Wales and some other European countries.
This is from the Associated Press, March 26, 2002: "In the last week, (Britain's) Home Secretary David Blunkett has vowed to 'reclaim the streets' from violent offenders."
This is from the Chicago Tribune, March 27, 2002: "Crime has risen to the top of France's political agenda, ahead of presidential elections in the spring. Thousands of police held nationwide strikes in December, saying they deserve more pay and better equipment because their jobs have become increasingly risky. The protests began after two officers were shot and killed during an armed robbery in a Paris suburb in October."
In a Nov. 9, 1998 editorial on the results of a joint U.S. Justice Department-Cambridge University study of crime in England and Wales and the United States, the Chicago Tribune noted: "England and Wales have overtaken us in the mean-streets department. Since 1981, the crime rates in England and Wales for muggings, assaults and most serious offenses short of murder and rape have overtaken those in the United States."
The editorial went on to note that whereas our rates for murder and rape are falling, they are climbing in England and Wales. In the nearly five years since that editorial was written, crime rates in the U.S. have continued to fall. They have continued to climb in England, Wales and much of the rest of gun-controlling Europe.
And the murder rate continues to climb in gun-controlling Chicago, which has had the highest (or worst) murder rate among major U.S. cities most of the last decade. Last week the city reported that its murder rate is up 11 percent from one year ago. Chicago ended 2002 with a murder rate of 22.3 per 100,000 people, three times higher than New York's rate of 7.2 per 100,000 people.
Ten years ago the Chicago Crime Commission recommended the city redraw police beats to put more cops where the criminals are, and many neighborhood groups embraced the idea. Unfortunately, Daley has run from it.
After years of mounting pressure caused by nation-leading rates of murder, the city on Tuesday announced it would create a new 100-officer "immediate response" unit to provide more patrols in areas with high gang activity, the overwhelming cause of most murders. Gang crimes specialists now spread among the department's 25 districts also would be placed into five large police "areas" to get them to places of violence more quickly and in greater force. However, the city still refuses to restructure police beats.
Rather than follow New York's lead and attack the cause of crime -- criminals -- Daley has preferred to emulate European politicians, who impose more gun control laws which criminals ignore. He apparently believes the criminals in his city, who routinely violate laws against murder, rape, armed robbery, drug dealing, carjacking, arson and prostitution -- not to mention against possession of a firearm by persons with a criminal history -- will obey laws requiring gun owners to register with police, wait 10 days to take possession of a firearm, limit gun purchases to one a month and turn in certain commonly owned firearms.
To appreciate how misplaced Daley's attacks on peaceable gun owners are, ask the Illinois State Police about the Firearm Owner's Identification program. I have done so, and here is what I've learned.
Illinois requires gun owners to have a Firearm Owner's ID card, issued by the state police. The card and the gun-owning privileges that go with it may be revoked for several reasons, including criminal convictions, domestic battery and poor mental health.
Out of more than 1.2 million FOID cardholders, 882 had their cards revoked because of a criminal conviction in 2002, according to Master Sgt. Rick Hector of the Illinois State Police. Another 972 lost them because of domestic battery and 1,201 lost them for reasons of mental health. That's a total of 3,055 -- fewer than three of every 1,000 cardholders -- who lost the right to own guns for one of those reasons. If we confine ourselves just to criminal conduct, including domestic battery, it comes to 1,854 persons, or fewer than two of every thousand gun owners.
I'll bet if we looked at the staff at Chicago City Hall, the Chicago Police Department, the Illinois General Assembly and the Secretary of State's office, we'd see more than two criminals for every thousand persons. I'll bet we'd see some mentally unbalanced persons too.
To understand why guns are a small issue outside Chicago and the near suburbs, consider this: In Lake and McHenry Counties, where there are gun stores, shooting ranges, hunt clubs and a combined population of about 1 million persons within 50 miles of Chicago, there were 16 murders in 2002, only two of which involved firearms. Chicago had 648 murders, well more than 500 involving firearms. If Chicago had had a comparable firearms murder rate, it would have had just five such killings in 2002.
In addition to ignoring evidence that gun control laws do not reduce crime, Daley and other gun-control advocates ignore evidence that guns help stop crimes.
Earlier this month Paul Dudesek of Franklin Park shot a man who broke into his house. Dudesek fired two warning shots, yet the man continued to advance on Dudesek until Dudesek shot him. Dudesek's wife was on the phone with a 911 police dispatcher, who heard the entire incident. It was over before police arrived.
Two months ago a 76-year-old South Side man stopped at a gas station, and a teenager pulled a gun on the man in a carjacking attempt. The man pulled out his own handgun and shot the would-be carjacker. To avoid publicizing the fact that an old man defended his life and property with a gun, prosecutors decided not to charge him with a crime even though, as a Chicago resident, he possessed the gun illegally. Police did seize his gun, ensuring that he will never again be able to defend himself.
Three months ago the ex-husband of Peoria resident Charlotte Gates was paroled from Big Muddy Correctional Center, where he had been sentenced for domestic battery. Barely one day later he was back at her house, attacking her again. She broke away, grabbed a handgun and shot him dead. Prosecutors decided the shooting was justified.
And let's not forget what happened in November 2000 in the Oak Brook law office of former DuPage County Chairman Aldo Botti. A woman walked into his office armed with a .357 magnum revolver and a Molotov cocktail, put the gun to the head of Botti's secretary and tried to light the firebomb. Botti grabbed a handgun he keeps in his desk and faced down the woman.
"I told her if she pulled the trigger I'd kill her," Botti said afterward.
After about 10 minutes the woman put down her gun and she was arrested. No shots were fired.
Violent crime in the U.S. peaked in the late 1980s and started dropping in the 1990s. Many factors are involved, but here are a few that should be noted:
States in the late 1980s began enacting laws allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons. Concealed-carry raises the risk of criminal conduct, because a criminal can never know if his potential victim is armed. Thirty-five states now have "shall-issue" laws, which say any law-abiding citizen who applies shall receive permission to carry a firearm. Nine other states allow concealed-carry but with discretion given to police. Only six states -- Illinois among them -- totally ban concealed carry.
States in the 1980s also began enacting longer prison sentences, truth in sentencing, mandatory sentencing and similar judicial reforms. Over the past two decades, as America's crime rate has dropped, incarceration rates have more than tripled, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice.
A record 6.6 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at year-end 2001. The more criminals in custody, the fewer crimes that are committed.
Contrast this with gun-controlling Europe. The joint study of crime in the U.S., England and Wales noted that prison sentences for criminals in England and Wales have grown more lenient. Sentences for murder were three years longer here than in England and Wales, four years longer for rape and robbery and almost three years longer for assault.
"We urgently need to re-examine our cozy assumptions about law and order," the London Sunday Times editorialized in 1998 in response to these findings.
England has done so. It has virtually disarmed its law-abiding citizens and become more sympathetic toward criminals. Consider the sad saga of Tony Martin, a farmer near Norfolk, England.
In 1999 three men with a combined 110 arrests broke into his house. Martin used a shotgun to kill one of the attackers and wound another. Martin was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison for defending himself. The conviction was later reduced to manslaughter. Four years later he is still in prison. Adding insult to injury, the British government has used taxpayer money to help the career criminals who attacked Martin sue him for civil damages.
Martin is hoping for parole, but last month British government lawyers opposed parole by arguing that burglars are citizens who must be protected from homeowners such as Martin, a man who had no criminal history.
This is where the left-wing logic of gun control leads.