We suppose that any time a couple of notoriously anti-gun organizations spend their cash on utterly useless, blindingly obvious “research,” that means fewer dollars down the road to push anti-gun ballot initiatives, lobby squishy elected officials and fund the campaigns of hoplophobic candidates. Which is why we’re just fine with a recent study being pumped by Michael Bloomberg’s The Trace that was undertaken to find out why Chicago’s “at-risk” youths who live in Murder City’s most dangerous neighborhoods carry guns.
The study, titled “We Carry Guns to Stay Safe,” is based on a survey of 345 men and women between the ages of 18 and 26 who live in high-violence neighborhoods on the South and West Sides of the city. Researchers working for the Urban Institute and the Joyce Foundation found that about a third of all respondents, and half of all men surveyed, had carried guns at some point in their lives. (The Joyce Foundation provides funding to The Trace.) They almost always did so unlawfully and were driven by the same self-defense concerns fueling legal firearm ownership around the country.
Bet you can’t guess what the people they surveyed said.
Of the 97 men who told the researchers they had carried a gun, 93 percent said they did so to protect themselves, and 84 percent said they did so to protect friends and family members. Their sense of fear was rooted in their experiences living in crime-afflicted neighborhoods: More than a third of the same group of respondents said they had either been shot or shot at during the past year. Eighty-five percent knew someone else who had been shot or targeted.
Let’s make sure we understand this. If what The Trace is telling us is accurate, people who carry guns and also live in two of America’s most dangerous, crime-riddled neighborhoods, pack heat to protect themselves and their families? What a novel concept! We see a Nobel in someone’s future.
As it turns out, many of those surveyed don’t bother with FOID cards, background checks or concealed carry permits.
Though few respondents who carried guns said they did so regularly, less than one in five thought the risk of getting caught by police with an illegal weapon was high, and even fewer — one in 10 — believed they would likely be arrested for shooting at someone.
So all those gun control measures have little to no practical effect in the city’s most crime-plagued precincts. It’s almost as if that’s all useless window dressing, put in place by politicians so they can say they’ve done something about “gun violence.”
And then there’s the fact that the Chicago Police Department has one of the most abysmally low clearance rates in the nation.
The Chicago Tribune reported in August that the department’s clearance rate for homicides has been trending downward, falling to about 17 percent last year. The clearance rate for nonfatal shootings is even lower: A University of Chicago Crime Lab analysis found that police solved only 5 percent in 2016, a year in which the city reeled from a surge in violence.
So it’s a self-perpetuating system. The CPD and the city’s famously feckless criminal justice system do a piss-poor job of arresting and prosecuting criminals. That leaves more bad guys on the streets to prey on law-abiding citizens. The citizens know the cops can’t protect them, so they decide to do it themselves by carrying firearms. And since they know the police can’t enforce much of anything, they sidestep the time, trouble and expense of complying with Illinois’ onerous gun control laws.
“The reality is that folks who are shooting people are not getting caught, at least not in a timely manner,” said Jocelyn Fontaine, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and the lead author of the survey. “The folks in these neighborhoods know that, are feeling that, and our survey bears that out.”
Wash, rinse, repeat.
According to The Trace the researchers found that getting a gun isn’t a problem.
The majority of those who took the survey — 69 percent — said it would only take hours to acquire a firearm. When asked how young people manage to get guns, huge majorities said common ways were through street dealers, buying or borrowing from a friend or family member, or stealing. Twenty-five percent said people were likely to acquire a gun by finding one on the street, in the garbage, or in a railroad train, while only 8 percent said they were likely to buy a weapon from a gun store or at a gun show.
Have you ever “found” a gun on a railroad train? That seems to happen a lot in the Windy City.
Long story short, there are plenty of guns to be had, one way or another. Chicago politicians like failed Mayor Rahm Emanuel love to blame surrounding states and their “lax” gun laws for his city’s crime problems. But no one ever seems to ask those same blame-shifting hacks why those other states’ crime rates are so comparatively low given their easier access to firearms.
In the Urban Institute survey, when respondents were asked about what might keep young people from packing heat, the majority — 58 percent — agreed that having a well-paying job was a big factor. Large proportions also said young people wouldn’t carry guns if their friends didn’t either, or if they knew they would be arrested.
Or just maybe the CPD could arrest more criminals and the court system could actually incarcerate them. If there were fewer people on the streets threatening the lives and livelihoods of the kind of people the survey covered, life on Chicago’s south and west sides would be much improved. And far less violent.