The Siege of Chicago

Between 4 p.m. Thursday, July 3, and 3:30 a.m. Monday, July 5, 82 people were shot on the streets of Chicago, with 14 dying. Even with a 30-percent increase in the number of police on the streets gun violence was out of hand, with one illegal handgun being confiscated per hour across the city during the same time period.

For the same period in 2014, there were 64 shootings, 69 nonfatal victims in those incidents and 15 slayings. In 2013, 12 people were killed and nearly 75 injured during the four-day holiday weekend. Independence Day fell on a Thursday last year.

Syracuse University’s track data on enforcement of federal gun laws in 2012 found that “out of 90 jurisdictions in the country, (Chicago) ranked 90th.” A 2011 Chicago police analysis found 90 percent of murder victims in the city are men, 76 percent of victims have prior arrest records, and the most common ages of killers are 17 and 18 years old.

Since the 70s, Chicago and its surrounding municipalities have taken a national lead in enacting firearms control legislation. Citizens’ groups like the Committee for Handgun Control, formed in 1973 and renamed Illinois Citizens for Handgun Control in 1982, have worked pass some of the nation’s toughest gun control laws.

In 1981 the suburb of Morton Grove became the first municipality in the U.S. to ban the sale, transportation, and ownership of handguns. In 1982, the city of Chicago instituted a similar a ban, barring civilians from possessing handguns except for those registered with the city before the enactment of the law.

The law also specified that handguns had to be re-registered every two years or owners would lose their handgun. In 1994, the law was amended to require annual re-registration.

Also in 1982, Mayor Jane Byrne and the city council began to hold hearings on an ordinance banning the sale and registration of handguns in Chicago. The ordinance passed making Chicago the first major U.S. city to enact a handgun ban.

Since the outset of the Chicago handgun ban, the percentage of Chicago murders committed with handguns has averaged about 40 percent higher than it was before the law took effect.

Soon other suburbs began passing gun control legislation. In the fall of 1982, Evanston banned handguns; Oak Park did the same in 1984 followed by Highland Park in 1989.

In June of 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban. Because of the decision, Chicago and the other municipalities came under pressure to change their laws.

Soon handgun bans were repealed in the suburbs of Wilmette, Morton Grove, Evanston, and Winnetka. However, the city of Chicago and Oak Park kept their laws in effect.

A map provided by the Chicago Sun-Times shows the majority of the shootings from this weekend happened in the Oak Park and Chicago area. The Sun-Times also ran a “deflection” story with the headline: “For its size, Milwaukee had an even more violent holiday weekend.”

Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the handgun bans of Chicago and Oak Park to be unconstitutional. And a month later a new Chicago city ordinance took effect that allowed the possession of handguns, but with heavy restrictions.

Residents were required to get a Chicago Firearms Permit. To get the permit they had to complete a firearms training course, pass a background check including fingerprinting, and pay a $100 permit fee.

Furthermore, possession of firearms was permitted only inside a dwelling, not in a garage or on the outside grounds of the property. And only one gun at a time was allowed to be kept in a usable state.

That same July, Oak Park amended its ordinance to allow handgun possession in one’s home, leaving no remaining town in Illinois that completely banned handguns.

In 2013, Illinois enacted the Firearm Concealed Carry Act, which set up a permitting system for the concealed carry of firearms. Another provision of this law is state preemption for “the regulation, licensing, possession, and registration of handguns and ammunition for a handgun, and the transportation of any firearm and ammunition”.

This invalidated Chicago’s requirements for gun registration and for an additional permit for the possession of firearms.

Chicago City Council soon repealed the law requiring the registration of firearms and the law requiring a city issued firearm owners permit. They also changed the law to allow the carrying of firearms on the grounds of one’s property outside as well as inside the home.

So why don’t law-abiding Chicagoan’s shoot back at criminals? Simply put — fear.

Following the state’s 2013 passage of its concealed carry act, Chicago’s Police Chief Gary McCarthy threatened: “I don’t care if they’re licensed legal firearms — people who are not highly trained — putting guns in their hands is a recipe for disaster. So I’ll train our officers that there is a concealed carry law, but when somebody turns with a firearm in their hand the officer does not have an obligation to wait to get shot to return fire and we’re going to have tragedies as a result of that. I’m telling you right up front.”


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