Homicides and the handgun ban in Chicago
Chicago recorded 461 homicides in 2009 and, as of this writing, has already recorded 157 for 2010, according to RedEye’s homicide tracker. April brought an increase in shootings: a girl almost two years old was shot in the head while in a parked car in Burnside; an Old Navy employee was shot in her workplace by her estranged boyfriend in the Loop; and many more were hit by gunfire on their porches or while walking down the street. The high temperatures this past weekend brought more violence to the South Side – a total of nine people were reportedly shot Sunday night alone.
In late April, Democratic State Reps. John Fritchey and LaShawn Ford called for the National Guard to be brought in to the city to police the streets, noting that the number of homicide deaths in Chicago at that time — 113 — matched the number of U.S. soldiers who had died in Afghanistan and Iraq during the same time period. However, Mayor Richard M. Daley has been cool to the idea of deploying troops and Gov. Pat Quinn said he would comply only if requested by Daley.
Some say overturning the city’s nearly 30-year handgun ban will help innocent citizens to defend themselves against the city’s violence.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for McDonald v. City of Chicago on March 2, a case that could potentially overturn a ban on handguns that’s been in effect in this city since 1982. Four individuals, with the assistance of pro-gun groups including the Illinois Rifle Association, are suing the city on the grounds that they fear for their lives in their neighborhoods and need to protect themselves. A decision is expected this summer.
It looks highly possible that the city’s gun ban will be lifted: a similar law in Washington, D.C., was overturned by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote two years ago, and the attorney who won that case is arguing for the plaintiffs in the Chicago case as well. In the preliminary oral arguments for McDonald v. City of Chicago in March, justices seemed open to extending gun rights to the states under the 14th Amendment. Gun control experts say this decision could potentially affect gun control laws across the United States — more than 190 cases on the same topic have been filed since the D.C. ban was lifted.
The McDonald v. City of Chicago decision is expected to be handed down in June.
CeaseFire, a local violence prevention initiative that looks at and treats gun violence as an epidemic, works to change the behaviors that cause violence. Staff at the organization says it’s important to take the recent swell in violence in stride, as violence levels over the long term have dropped.
“When it gets warmer … the violent activity is going to increase, because more people are prone to come out and just hang out and just wait for something to happen, anything to happen,” said Tony Boatman, the outreach community supervisor of CeaseFire Rogers Park. “A lot of the way we deal with things is knowing ahead of time. And that comes with having communication with these guys. And so we know when something’s getting ready to happen and we can try to intermediate that before it ever happens. A lot of times it doesn’t work, but sometimes it does.”