Here’s something I’ve noticed about people who love guns: whenever there’s a shooting, they see it as proof we need more guns.
After James Holmes allegedly killed 12 people in a Colorado movie theater, the gun-lovers didn’t think the problem was that Holmes had an AR-15 assault weapon. They thought the problem was that no one in the audience was prepared to shoot back. There are currently 300 million guns in America, but that’s not enough to keep us safe, because we need guns to protect us from other people with guns. Which means there should probably be 600 million guns in America.
Last week, Ward Room published a list of murder rates from around the world. It showed that Chicago is the deadliest Alpha world city, even more murderous than Mexico City or Sao Paulo, Brazil. Since then, the post has been circulated by gun lovers who think it proves that Chicago’s gun control -- and, by extension, all gun control -- costs more lives than it saves.
“#GunControlFail,” Tweeted @GeorgeMFWashington.
“SO MUCH FOR GUN CONTROL,” Tweeted @DrMartyFox.
Gun lovers are gleeful about Chicago’s deadly summer. They see it as a rebuke not just to gun control, but to the policies of Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel. But Chicago’s murder rate is not proof that gun control doesn’t work. It’s proof that, in a country with one gun per citizen, local gun laws are meaningless.
Let’s look at Tokyo, one of the safest cities on that list, with a murder rate of 0.5 per 100,000 citizens. Japan’s constitution does not guarantee its citizens the right to bear arms. Handguns are prohibited. Semi-automatic weapons are prohibited. Automatic rifles are prohibited. The only exceptions are hunting shotguns and target-shooting pistols. The penalty for illegal possession of a gun is up to 15 years in prison. Japan has a population of 127 million. In 2006, two people were murdered with guns.
Japan starts with the principle that citizens have no right to a gun, and forces them to prove they need one. The United States starts with the principle that guns are an inalienable right, and forces the government to justify banning them.
The number-one factor in predicting crime is not guns -- or lack of guns. It is concentrated urban poverty. Because of Chicago’s history as a segregated city, we have a lot of that. As the Reader pointed out:
Violent crime in Englewood and West Garfield Park will continue to run rampant as long as poverty's clustered there. Concentrated poverty produces a lot more violence than poverty that's intermittent in a region. Concentrated poverty is also self-sustaining.
It's that clustering of poverty—a product of the city's racial and economic segregation—that needs to be addressed if we genuinely want fewer murders here.
Chicago has some of the poorest neighborhoods in the developed world. America has the loosest gun laws. That’s why we’re Deadliest Global City. Not because we don’t have enough guns.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!