In their coverage of gun violence in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend, conservative media outlets advanced their longstanding narrative that Chicago's strict gun laws are not effective. But that view ignores what's happening in cities that have weak gun laws and astronomical rates of gun violence like New Orleans, as well as cities with strong gun laws and low rates of violence, like New York City.
“Intense Stretch Of Gun Violence” In Chicago Over Fourth Of July Weekend
Chicago Tribune: 10 Killed And 55 Wounded By Gunfire In Chicago Over Holiday Weekend. The Tribune reported that while there were fewer incidents of gun violence this Fourth of July holiday weekend over last year's, dozens of shootings still took place:
Shootings over the Fourth of July weekend left 10 people dead and 55 others wounded, a toll lower than last year but one marked by an intense stretch of gun violence over eight hours on one of the nights.
Among those killed was 7-year-old Amari Brown, shot in the chest as he watched fireworks near his father's home in Humboldt Park late Saturday night. Police say they believe the attack was aimed at the father, whom they described as a ranking gang member. [Chicago Tribune, 7/6/15]
Conservative Media Use Violence To Question Chicago's Strong Gun Laws
Fox News Host Steve Doocy Suggests “Liberal Policies” Are “Actually Killing Americans” In Chicago. On July 7, Steve Doocy first suggested that Chicago's “liberal policies” were responsible for the weekend crime wave and then claimed Chicago's gun laws “are not enforced”:
DOOCY: Cold-blooded violence sweeping through cities all across the country. First, in the city of Chicago, which has a Democratic mayor: 10 people killed and 55 more wounded this Fourth of July weekend alone. Oh my goodness. And in San Francisco, where the city's failure to deport a known criminal led to the murder of a 32-year-old, Kathryn Steinle. So are these cities, their liberal policies, actually killing Americans? Some have suggested that.
JEHMU GREENE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: To point the finger and play the blame game and say, “Are liberal policies killing people in Chicago or in San Francisco, for that matter?” is, I think, just not up to what this conversation should be about. Who is actually killing people? Well, some could point to guns and a lack of any sort of gun prevention violence program for us to be able to embrace as a country.
DOOCY: Jehmu, in the city of Chicago, Jehmu, the city of Chicago ... has some of the strongest gun violence laws on the books, but they are not enforced. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/7/15]
Fox News' Special Report Uses Chicago Violence To Question Effectiveness Of City's Gun Laws. Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier said July 6 that violence in Chicago over the holiday weekend indicates “how gun control efforts by the president and others may have had little effect there”:
BAIER: Holiday weekend carnage has left at least 10 people dead in Chicago, the city President Obama calls home. Tonight, correspondent Kevin Corke looks at how gun control efforts by the president and others may have had little effect there.
CORKE: [Gun violence victim] Amari [Brown] was an innocent bystander. But his death is symptomatic of a city awash in gun violence. Sixty-five people in Chicago shot over the holiday weekend, 10 fatally. Just last year, same holiday weekend, 82 hit by gunfire, more than a dozen, 16, died. All this despite the fact that Chicago has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. [Fox News, Special Report, 7/6/15]
Fox's Shannon Bream Incredulous That Response To Chicago Violence Could Lead To Crackdown On Easy Gun Access. From the July 6 broadcast of Fox News' The Kelly File:
BREAM: I think we'd argue that we want all of these young men's lives to be protected and to have a chance ... and for things to be fair and lawful. I mean, that's the most important thing here, enforcing that. But what I heard from the White House today when this came up with Josh Earnest was essentially going down this trail of, well we need tougher gun laws, and anybody who follows Second Amendment debates knows Chicago has the toughest gun laws in the country. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 7/6/15]
Breitbart.com: 2014 Fourth Of July Violence “A Sad Reminder Of The Failure Of Gun Control Policies.” [Breitbart.com, 7/5/15]
Conservative Media Use Chicago To Indict Gun Safety Proposals While Ignoring More Violent Cities With Weak Gun Laws
Parents Against Gun Violence: “Chicago, Illinois Is Not Even Close To Being The Most Dangerous City In The U.S.” Using data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control, Parents Against Gun Violence determined that Chicago does not lead the nation in murder, even using several different metrics for comparison:
In Fact, The Three Most Dangerous Cities “Are All Prohibited By State Law From Enacting ANY New Gun Ordinances.” Parents Against Gun Violence found that Detroit, New Orleans, and St. Louis are all subject to preemption laws, a type of National Rifle Association-backed law that limits the ability of city authorities to regulate firearms beyond what is contained within state law:
Although Chicago Gun Murders Have Ticked Up In The First Half Of 2015, Rates Over Past Three Years Remain Similar To Historic Lows Not Seen Since 1965. [ABC7Chicago.com, 7/1/15, Huffington Post, 12/31/14, MSNBC.com, 12/2/13]
Pew: “Chicago Nowhere Near U.S. 'Murder Capital.'” Pew Research used FBI data to determine that six cities, some with murder rates nearing 100 per 100,000 people per year, have been the U.S. “murder capital” since 1985, none of them Chicago:
[Pew Research, 7/14/14]
City Of Chicago Report: Majority Of Guns Used In Crimes Were Smuggled From Other States, Often Where Gun Laws Are Weaker. A May 2014 report from the City of Chicago described how Chicago is “an easy target for gun traffickers” and that trace data indicates that criminals in states with weak gun laws traffic guns into Chicago at a per-capita rate that outpaces states with strong gun laws:
Between 2009 and 2013, almost 60 percent of guns used to commit crimes in Chicago were first purchased outside of Illinois. That is a slight uptick from analysis published in 2012, when 58 percent were first purchased out of state. All 50 states supplied at least one gun that was eventually used to commit a crime in Chicago. Illinois, like nearly every other state, is the single largest source of guns recovered in Chicago and supplies 40 percent of the total guns recovered in the City. Nationally, on average, each state supplies about 70 percent of guns recovered in crimes in that state and other states supply the remaining 30 percent.
The largest out-of-state sources of Chicago's illegal guns were Indiana, Mississippi, and Wisconsin, which supplied 19 percent, 6.7 percent, and 3.6 percent of these crime guns, respectively. None of these states have laws that require background checks for purchasers who buy firearms at gun shows or on the Internet.
States vary in the degree to which they regulate gun sales. Some require background checks only for some types of gun purchases. Others require gun owners to report any lost or stolen firearms. Some states do not even require gun dealers to obtain licenses. It should come as no surprise that the states with the most permissive gun laws are the states that export crime guns at the highest rates.
Indiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama and Virginia export 31, 50, 46, 34, 33, and 32 handguns per 100,000 residents. By contrast, California and New York, which have much tougher gun laws, export approximately 5 and 2 handguns per 100,000 residents.
Thus, to a certain extent, Chicago is challenged by geography. Its central location makes it an easy target for gun traffickers. In the last five years 22 different guns recovered from crime scenes in Chicago were traced back to a single purchaser in Indiana. During this same period, 11 guns recovered at crime scenes in Chicago were traced back to a single purchaser in Georgia. Put another way, two out-of-state residents were responsible for supplying 33 separate guns that were used in crimes in Chicago. [City of Chicago, 5/27/14]
Conservative Media Fail To Mention High Rate Of Violence In New Orleans, Where Weak GOP-Backed State Gun Laws Prevail
Parents Against Gun Violence: New Orleans Leads In Murder Rate When Comparing Metropolitan Area, City Only, Or Gun Murders Only. [Parents Against Gun Violence, accessed 7/7/15]
The New Orleans Advocate: Murder Rate Is “Spiking” In New Orleans. A July 7 New Orleans Advocate article tallied 91 murder victims in New Orleans in what it called “a bloody first half of 2015”:
Timothy Thompson Sr., a 40-year-old Navy veteran and a father, was gunned down on Father's Day, becoming one of the most recent victims among the 91 people murdered in the city in a bloody first half of 2015.
The New Orleans Police Department investigated 30 percent more murders in the first half of this year than in the first half of 2014.
The violence has seemed unrelenting at times, unbounded by geographic or socioeconomic lines. The victims have ranged from two small children, ostensibly in the care of their mother, to two police officers, both gunned down in the line of duty. [The New Orleans Advocate, 7/7/15]
Orleans Parish Coroner On July 2: “4 Homicides In 6 Hours This Afternoon. Four, For Christ's Sake.” Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse called attention to homicides in New Orleans with a July 2 tweet:
4 homicides in 6 hours this afternoon. Four, for Christ's sake.
-- Jeffrey C. Rouse, MD (@CoronerJCRouse) July 3, 2015
Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence: “Louisiana Has The Weakest Gun Laws In The Country And The Second-Highest Gun Death Rate.” In a 2014 scorecard, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence found that no state had looser gun laws than Louisiana, which has the second-highest gun death rate in the nation:
[Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, accessed 7/7/15]
Louisiana State Constitutional Amendment Limiting Gun Regulation Gave Felons Legal Leverage To Challenge State Ban On Ownership. A legal challenge brought by two felons to a 2012 constitutional amendment -- backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) -- requiring gun laws to be evaluated under a “strict scrutiny” standard made it as far as the Louisiana Supreme Court, which ultimately upheld the constitutionality of a state law prohibiting felons from owning guns:
The Louisiana Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the state's law barring convicted felons from possessing guns. The justices, who heard argument in May, issued the ruling in a pair of cases originating from district courts in Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes.
Both challenges to Revised Statute 14:95.1 are byproducts of a 2012 constitutional amendment that made gun ownership a fundamental right. The amendment, which Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approved, strengthened the state's gun rights and required that any limit to them must meet a “strict scrutiny” test, the highest level of judicial review.
“Some arrested or convicted of crimes involving firearms have attempted to show that the laws under which they were charged do not withstand strict scrutiny and are thus unconstitutional,” Associate Justice Jefferson Hughes III of Denham Springs wrote for the court in the 17-page opinion. “In these consolidated cases we now reject those arguments.”
“Our law proscribing the possession of firearms by convicted felons is not affected by the amendment and withstands a strict scrutiny analysis. Such laws are effective, time-tested and easily understandable and do not violate the Constitution. Common sense and the public safety allow no other result.”
The court overturned a 2013 decision by Judge Robert Pitre of the 24th Judicial District Court in the case of Jamal Taylor, 27, of Avondale and Kelin Stevens, 31, of Houma. Under state law, Taylor is barred from having guns because of his five felony narcotics convictions, while Stevens may not have guns because of his convictions of second-degree battery and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, prosecutors said. [The Times-Picayune, 7/1/14]
Conservative Media Silent On Safest Big City In The U.S. Where Gun Laws Are Strong
Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence: New York Has The Fifth-Strongest Gun Laws And Comparatively Low Gun Death Rate. In a 2014 scorecard, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence found that 46 states have higher gun death rates than New York:
[Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, accessed 7/7/15]
Daily News: New York City On Pace To Have Fewest Felonies In 2015 In Recorded History. According to a July 2 Daily News article, New York City is on pace to record less than 100,000 felonies for the first time ever:
[Daily News, 7/2/15]
New York Times Report: NYC Murders In 2014 The Lowest Since 1963. In 2014, New York City recorded 328 murders, a total decline of 85 percent from 1990:
Murders in New York fell to 328 in 2014, the fewest since the New York Police Department started keeping reliable numbers in 1963, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
The biggest U.S. city, once notorious for high crime, had 328 killings last year, the newspaper said, citing police statistics. The figure is the lowest since at least 1963, when the police department began collecting reliable statistics, and is part of a decades-long fall in U.S. crime.
Reports of major crimes in New York City fell to 105,428 through Dec. 28, from 110,728 in the same period in 2013. Murders are down 85 percent from their peak in 1990, the Times said. [Reuters, 1/1/15]