Columnist: We Need Coronavirus-like Interventions For Gun Violence

There’s no shortage of hot takes at the moment. Unlike the run on toilet paper, guns, and ammunition that have left store shelves picked over, the supply of dumb ideas inspired by the coronavirus is far outstripping demand.

Columnist Mary Mitchell with the Chicago Sun-Times has an absolutely idiotic idea inspired by the coronavirus: why can’t we “curb rights” to fight gun violence the same way that we’re curbing constitutional rights to slow the spread of the coronavirus?

Seemingly overnight, Americans are being denied the right to assembly, to travel, to attend church and school and to entertain themselves in an effort to save lives.

Similarly drastic measures could be used to curb the gun epidemic that claims lives every day.

Don’t take this wrong.

I am taking precautions and following the CDC guidelines, and you should, too. I’m also praying I make it back to my own home before domestic air travel is canceled.

But I am more afraid of walking the dog early in the morning or late at night in a neighborhood plagued by guns.

I’m more afraid someone will fire a gun on the expressway just for the heck of it and take a life.

And I’m more afraid that a gun will fall into the wrong hands.

If we can fight a war against an enemy we can’t see or touch, we certainly could use draconian measures to fight the gun violence in our schools, in our workplaces and on our streets.

There’s so much to unpack here I hardly know where to begin. Mitchell says that “similarly drastic measures” could be used to prevent violent crime in Chicago. Like what, exactly? Of course she doesn’t say.

The sad fact is that Chicago has instituted drastic measures to curb crimes involving firearms, and it was a miserable failure. From 1982 until 2010, handguns were banned in the city. Unless you were a cop or a politician, it was illegal for you to possess a handgun. Did that do anything for Chicago’s crime rate? Absolutely not.

In fact, Chicago’s all-time record for homicides was set back in 1992, ten years after the ban took effect. 943 people were murdered in the city that year. In 2019, nearly a decade after Chicago’s ban was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in McDonald v Chicago, and six years after the state’s concealed carry law took effect, there were 490 homicides in city.

Obviously that number is still far too high, but it’s also almost 50-percent lower than the high reached when the city’s handgun ban was still the law. Recognizing the Second Amendment rights of Americans doesn’t lead to increased violent crime. Ignoring criminal behavior does. Disarming people does.

As it turns out, I too would love to see Illinois take drastic action to reduce gun-related violence, but I don’t believe gun control is the answer. Focus efforts on identifying the most violent offenders and take their cases to federal court, provide witness protection services to those who are needed to testify against those bad actors, and remove the bureaucratic hurdles like the state’s FOID card requirement for legal gun owners, to ensure that as many Illinois residents can protect themselves if need be. We don’t need to shelter in place to prevent violent crime. We don’t need to strip people of their constitutional rights either. To borrow a phrase from the public health world, we need to focus on the “super-spreaders” of violent crime, and stop them in their tracks.