Gun violence has been a defining issue for Chicago, a city known for its high homicide rates. Last week, President Donald Trump visited Chicago for the first time since he took office and he came with insults.
“All over the world, they are talking about Chicago,” Trump said during a press conference with Chicago’s police department. “It’s embarrassing to us as a nation.”
We aren’t an embarrassment — Chicago is a world-class city with some of the most diverse neighborhoods, cultures and people in the country. Admittedly, it does have a problem with gun violence, but the blame isn’t completely on the City. The federal government is largely to blame as well.
In 1989, Chicago law enforcement believed distributors were intentionally selling guns to individuals who intended on using or reselling guns in the city. Chicago filed a lawsuit against manufacturers, distributors and dealers of firearms in Illinois State Court and needed the information on stores they suspected were involved.
The city of Chicago filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the United States Department of the Treasury Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to retrieve information on gun sales in local and national gun shops. The ATF holds information on gun sales and uses a tracking system to trace a buyer to a firearm by searching its serial number.
The ATF provided most of the information that was requested but many significant details were left out, including specific names of individuals who were suspected in the lawsuit. The City filed a suit against the ATF in federal district court under FOIA and the decision was in favor of Chicago. The ATF appealed a second time and the case was taken up by the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed the appeal court’s decision and favored the ATF in keeping information censored.
The decision to withhold this information made it difficult for Chicago to enforce gun policies and keep guns from coming into the city. Despite Chicago’s strict gun regulations, which include background checks, gun violence is worsening in Chicago. Crime spiked in 2016 from under 40 a month to over 80, according to Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research.
In the summers of 2016 and 2017, there were about 80 fatal shootings a month in Chicago, according to the research conducted by Northwestern University. The violence was reportedly concentrated in a handful of communities, including Austin, Garfield Park, North and South Lawndale, Englewood and West Pullman. Many of these are lower-income neighborhoods.
The majority of the victims are young, black men between the ages of 16 and 30, according to data compiled by the Chicago Tribune. The facts paint a clear picture of the problem present in these low-income neighborhoods. There’s nowhere for kids and young adults to go when they aren’t in school.
As the population in schools continues to climb, the funding hasn’t met the demand. Many schools are left with insufficient resources to teach students, so outside schools, programs such as daycare and extracurricular activities aren’t as prevalent due to the lack of funding.
The state needs to put more money into education and ensure it gets to schools, primarily those located in lower-income neighborhoods.
Illinois has been a blue state that holds up progressive values, such as strict gun regulation. Background checks and waiting periods are required when applying for a long-rifle or handgun license. Chicago even banned handguns in 1982 but the ban was struck down in 2010 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Illinois became the last state in the nation to approve concealed carry which would allow residents of Illinois to carry a gun on their person if they have a license.
Despite the gun regulations in Chicago, states including Indiana have gun regulations that are more relaxed and these guns bought in a different state could be transported into the city illegally. Even with strict federal gun laws, criminals will still find a way to smuggle guns, but let’s not make it easy for them.
We can’t be complacent and allow gun violence to define the reputation of this cultural city. People — including the president — have given up on Chicago. But if the community continues to voice its concerns and calls for more federal funding, we may finally see a decrease in shootings.