90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Thursday, February 14, 2013

Why Aren’t Chicago’s Tough Gun Laws Working?

Protesters hold up copied photos of Hadiya Pendleton at the scene where she was killed during an anti-gun violence march and rally Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, in Chicago. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Protesters hold up copied photos of Hadiya Pendleton at the scene where she was killed during an anti-gun violence march and rally Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, in Chicago. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

President Obama will be in his hometown of Chicago Friday to talk about his economic agenda and his plans to curb gun violence.

One of the most powerful moments in his State of the Union address Tuesday came when he pointed out the parents of Chicago shooting victim, 15 year-old Hadiya Pendelton, who was shot down while hanging out with some friends.

The President will be speaking at the Hyde Park Academy, just a few blocks from his Kenwood home, and not far from where the shooting took place.

Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in the country, with 506 murders last year, compared to 414 in New York City, which is three times the size of the Windy City.

Chicago also has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Gun stores are banned and so were handguns, until a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturned that law.

We discuss the issue of guns in Chicago by looking at both societal issues and gun laws. Mary Mitchell is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Harold Pollack is co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab.

Interview Highlights

Mary Mitchell on the neighborhood where Hadiya was killed:

“If you look at the community where the crime happened, where Hadiya was killed, that is a gentrifying community. In other words, you have lots of brownstones and greystones and high income housing, but you also have low income people who are basically being pushed out of those communities. They are on a collision course with the middle class values and culture… People in those communities who are engaged in criminal activity are now colliding with people who are not involved in that activity.”

Mary Mitchell on the effects of getting rid of housing projects:

“You have to have investment in those communities. You cannot move low-income people into a middle-income neighborhood and not have resources follow them. They have no money to go to Boys and Girls Clubs, they are not involved in any positive activities. You have to invest in those communities. A lot of these communities have no jobs. And so what are young people who have been involved in crime – standing on a corner selling drugs – when they get into those communities, what are they going to do? They’re going to do the same thing and engage in the same behavior. So you’re going to have to find a way to redirect that energy and redirect that activity to something positive. And that requires an investment – on the part of private industry, on the part of the churches, on the part of the community groups – it has to be a collaboration that brings all these forces together because you’re not going to be able to arrest your way out of this.”

Professor Pollack on the need to enforce existing laws:

“I do think that the NRA and others are correct that we can be more imaginative and more effective in the way that we enforce our gun laws. So let’s have a realistic conversation about how can we disrupt these underground gun markets more effectively and disrupt the flow of guns.”

“If you commit a crime with a gun [in Chicago], they will really take it very seriously and throw the book at you. But if you are caught with an illegal gun and you are not using it in any other crime at the moment – the police actually in Chicago are increasingly really on to this – but you’ve got to get everyone in the system – the judges, the prosecutors, everybody – to say that is the foundation of the homicides that we’re facing, is this illegal gun market. And right now it is not always taken with the seriousness that it needs to be, if you catch someone and all they’re involved in is gun trafficking and they’re not involved in other things. I think President Obama, by directing federal prosecutors, by saying to them, this is a really high priority, that’s going to be valuable.”

Professor Pollack on measures like “stop and frisk”

“Stop and frisk can be effective when it’s done in a way that has the support and embrace of the community. If you arrest every young person who’s doing something illegal in a community, and people get a sense that law enforcement is bringing tremendous social damage to the fabric of the community, then people are really going to be resistant and they are not going to support things that actually would be valuable to that community that might focus specifically on the guns.”

Guests:


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Ajay

    While the gun discussion is a broad one and poverty is factor, the impact on younger minorities is higher than any other demographic. As for support, programs targeted to at-risk youth, like Job Corps have been cut or suspended, leaving these kids to their own devices with fewer options.

    • Common Sense

      Yep cutting that program caused those murderers to shoot that poor girl… Wake up to reality my friend.

    • Jfc1220

      wake up indeed. We all need to look beyond the sound bites we are being driven to repeat that guns in the hands of wicked Black gang banger/drug dealers from the poor areas of the Black Communities are the “cause” for violence so that, ergo, the solution is to take away the guns (only from them) and round them all up, put them in jail (mandatory minimum sentences) The real causes of this violence, well documented, are a complex, dire and longstanding un-addressed economic,housing,health, criminal justice and other complex layers of societal violence, made invisible to many because of stereotypes and glib labels. To truely find solutions to the gun violence, Connect what you know about gun violence in adolescent young people to the following   ECONOMIC VIOLENCE- 20- 80% long term unemployment in  Black Communities and nothing to change it in sight; HOUSING VIOLENCE- including huge, but invisible homelessness, highest  foreclosures in nation concentrated in Black neighborhoods, bank divestment, sudden destruction and disbursement of low income rental housing ; HEALTH VIOLENCE- catastrophic physical and mental health disparities,including lack of counselors, mental health clinics,adequate recreation or programs for low income people and access to care is drastically cut;EDUCATIONAL VIOLENCE: 60% drop out rate; schools , under resourced,overcrowded classes, producing illiterate , low skilled students; JUSTICE SYSTEM VIOLENCE: shocking 33% of all black males have criminal records – 80% from non-violent matters, unequal policing in different communities; onerous juvenile/adult prison conditions; huge barriers for post prison re-integration;POVERTY VIOLENCE: social safety net  program for poor families cut, grossly inadequate ; foster kids abuse and neglect huge. Start to fix these issues and you will soon fix the the anger, depression and hopelessness that are the REAL causes of violence.There are a whole list of solutions that we can do to successfully address each of these areas of violence impacting issue. Many experts and everyday people have identified things that work to address each area. The starting point is for us all to get informed about these realities and believing and mindlessly repeating that you can arrest your way out of the problem. Listen to young people themselves for their description of what is happening and what to do about it at  such sites as Columbia Links, Black Youth Project or Community Media Workshops  

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        its all side effects (some would say main effects) of the war on drugs

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      there is a related article about the rockerfeller drug laws and the advent of mandatory minimum sentences for drug violations. it made selling drugs such a serious offense the drug dealers started recuiting kids to sell their product to aviod the mandatory minimums. these child drug dealers were not really able to defend them selves so they got guns and then the cia shipped in a several tons of cocaine which rick ross turned to crack. the crack down on crack led to the meth epidemic and we are in the mess we are in today where school children and prisoners can get any drugs they want and little girls get shot in the park cause they were wearing the wrong color shirt by gangbangers with stolen guns. for some reason some people think a rational response to this problem is to attempt to ban guns when its all a result of prohibition. a really great book about how these laws helped create our youth gang culture and the evolution of american violence is called fist,stick,knife,gun

      • Palake

         Yes, “the cia shipped in a several tons of crack.”(sic)
        I think that pretty sums up your position.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          where do you  think ricky ross got the tons of cocaine from? What’s my position? what is your opinion of what ever my “position” is? Do you have a point?

        • Robert MacKay

          Anyone who would deny the CIAs involvement in drug trafficking and sales is a fool that has been wearing blinders for a decade or more.

  • Mark S.

    Chicago raises an interesting question regarding the much-endorsed “Universal Background Checks”.  If no gun shops are allowed within Chicago, where would a resident go to transfer a legally owned weapon (i.e. shotgun)?  The only place I know that can run these checks is at a federally licensed gun store.  Police or municipal buildings could theoretically do it, but they are all protected behind metal detectors anymore, so you can’t transport the gun in there to be verified as required on the form.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      if chicago has its way, nowhere.
       they should make a voluntary online check system. there is no way to stop one bad person selling a gun to another and thus no way to ensure compliance especially for the people you would most want to do it. most gun owners are responsible and would not sell their gun to a sketchy person now so if you gave them the option to do it online and made it free and still kept no records that would be something that would empower gun owners to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands.  forcing people to pay and go to a gun store and keeping a perminate record  turns people off so they will just avoid it especially the people you would not want to be selling guns to each other. in mass we are currently required to fill out a form when we do a private sale and are limited to 4 a year i think thats fine also

  • guest

    buy and bust that was recommended to use for undercover police to get guns off the street was compared to the DEA and the drug war buy and bust program, One thing though we are losing the Drug War and it doesnt work

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      we are having more casualties in the drug war than any other war we are currently in and its our longest running conflict which is saying something with our 12 year war in afganistan

  • Common Sense

    Why don’t gun laws work? Because criminals don’t follow the law…duh

    • http://comparegoldandsilverprices.com/ Mike

      Gun control is not about protecting us; it’s about protecting our “elected” masters from us.

      Kings love unarmed peasants.

    • Anonymous

      Why do we need gun laws? The bad guys, don’t need a license to kill, they will do it anyway. They are really saying that your good hardworking family is susceptible to murder everyday, every hour, and you cannot do anything about it. You can have a lunatic run a train on you and your wife, if he feels like it. I hate to tell you, I’m a good guy, but thinking of my family getting shot dead, or permanently injured, living with that pain. I would go on a rampage killing every gang banger, every day of my life. How dare they get to sit on top, with their weapons, and we are the slave peasants? Every man a sword, and shield. There will be Civil War, or an innocent slaughter. It is terrible to be able to save lives with guns, and then be arrested for illegal ownership. The innocent people aren’t worth anything. Some Laws just mess up our lives, and this is what leads to anarchy, and Civil War.

  • fsdbm2

    Of course Chicago’s tough gun laws aren’t working — anymore than tough drunk driving laws haven’t stopped drunk driving, or tough criminal laws haven’t stopped bank robberies.  Tough gun laws are only one tool in the toolbox.  Besides, who says they haven’t worked?  Without those gun laws, gun violence in Chicago might be much, much worse than it is now.  Cheers!

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      really?  how much worse could it get?” Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in the country, with 506 murders last year, compared to 414 in New York City(another place its extreamly difficult to get a gun, coincidence?), which is three times the size of the Windy City.
      whats the next step in chicago? “double” ban guns? make them “illegaler”. despite the supream court ruling there are still no gun stores in chicago and its not possible to get a carry liscense there. More americans are being killed in chicago than afganistan, (where almost every american has a gun mostly those scary looking M16s) which is literally an active war zone.

      • Probeman2

        M4

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          lol they would have no idea what i was talking about

      • Robert MacKay

        You cant use logic and facts in the gun debate your opposition is emotional about it not logical. You need to show them pictures of puppies and kittens and tell that their uncle Sam will save all the poor kittens if only we will hand over our guns. That might work!

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          at least when they ban guns full auto ak47s will be cheap and easy to get

    • Robert MacKay

      Without guns laws there would be guns stores in the city and people would arm themselves. Criminals are cowards and would rather face an 80 year old lady that is unarmed than a middle house wife with a shotgun any day of the week. If you want gun homicides to go down in Chicago arm the citizens.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    “And so what are young people who have been involved in crime – standing on a corner selling drugs ”
    Prohibition is why we have gangs.  There are no children with guns selling alcohol on the corner for a reason. Drug financed gangs are why there are so many murders and innocent bystanders killed in shootouts in places like chicago.
    Guns are not the cause of the problem.  the utter failure of the draconian gun laws in chicago to curb the murder rate should make this obvious. Prohibition is the problem. As long as they are focusing on something that is not the cause of the problem they will continue to fail. when we ended prohibition of alcohol the murder rate dropped 99%. Chicago is the poster city for the failure of gun control and the failure of prohibition. why is this so hard to understand for our politicians?

  • StupidDemocrats

    As long as Obama is offering “free stuff” there will be no incentive to do better in life. Simple, stay home and collect a check from the government. Isn’t that what democrats want? They really do not want a better life for these kids.

  • Peter Lake

    Chicago needs to pass a law making murder illegal.
    That will sove the problem.
    How come they didn’t think of that already?

  • fazsha

    There will always be violence among young men with the highest testosterone levels. Read that any way you want.

    • Al Erickson Nsa

      The people have learned to hate and kill. That will continue, with or without guns, until they kill each other off or learn another way of life. I pray that the differences the community organizers are making are positive; but when I see things like the reverend’s “God damn America” speech, I have to wonder.

  • Gunrights

    Drugs are illegal, how hard is it to find drugs in this country?

    Someone that is set on murder can drive a car into a crowd of people and kill much more efficiently than an Ar15. Why aren’t you screaming for cars to be illegal?

    A crazy person can light a building on fire and kill people very effiently. So do you ban matches, lighters and any other fire starting instrument?

    I can go on for ever but I think you get the point.

    Even if you completely banned every type of gun guess what would happen? Only the criminals would have them! How would they get them you ask? The same way millions of people get drugs in this county, ILLEGALLY!

  • http://websterslawyers.com.au/our-services/traffic-matters-police-matters/ traffic lawyers adelaide

    Most nations hold the power to protect themselves, others, and police their own territory as a fundamental power vested by sovereignty. 

  • Orchidflame

    Perhaps, we need far stricter penalties for breaking the gun laws. Something so severe, that it literally projects life long fear, onto the criminals who constantly break the laws. Apparently, the punishments are effective enough, if people are still willing to test the system.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      we need to actually prosecute the people the sentences are quite long but they dont use the laws we have

  • scc10182

    any one who says that poverty is a cause of crime and murder is a moron.negroes are the cause of most crime and murders.

  • Guest

    They don’t work because they are local. National laws like those of Canada do work a lot better than the mess the fear mongers at Faux New and the NRA work to keep us from fixing.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

April 17 3 Comments

Jane Goodall Plants ‘Seeds Of Hope’

The world-famous primatologist discusses her new book, which is back on shelves after some controversy.

April 17 9 Comments

College Advice From A High School Counselor

Lisa Micele answers listener questions and explains what schools are looking for beyond GPAs and standardized test scores.

April 16 Comment

ER Doctor Looks Back A Year After Marathon Bombing

Dr. Ron Medzon, an emergency room physician at Boston Medical Center, recalls treating victims injured in the bombing.

April 16 36 Comments

Tensions Build In San Francisco Amid Tech Boom

As San Francisco experiences a historic economic boom, some activists say not all city residents are reaping the benefits.