Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pushed back on Monday against the idea of federal law enforcement playing a larger role in helping staunch the city’s hemorrhaging homicide rate, telling reporters that she has great concerns about President Trump sending in law enforcement from federal agencies and once again arguing that the answer to stopping the city’s violent crime lies in more gun control laws.
On Monday, Trump brought up Chicago to reporters at the White House, referring to the “many, many” shot and killed on the city’s streets over the weekend. At this point in 2019, Chicago had reached 275 homicides, but this year the city has already seen more than 400. Lightfoot doesn’t seem to have any answer other than “it’s not my fault and we need more gun laws,” even as the head of the Chicago Police Department’s union has publicly excoriated Lightfoot and called on the president to bring in reinforcements.
Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, a vocal supporter of Trump, called Lightfoot a “complete failure who is either unwilling or unable to maintain law and order,” but did not say what kind of help he was asking for or whether he wants federal troops to be sent to the city.
It’s not the first time Trump has made disparaging comments about Chicago leaders, and what he says is their inability to control violence. Just last month, Trump sent a letter criticizing Lightfoot and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker for a “lack of leadership” in stemming gun violence. Lightfoot dismissed Trump’s letter as a “litany of nonsense.”
There are two largely separate and distinct issues playing out in Chicago right now; a staggering rise in gang and drug violence coupled with civil unrest and direct action aimed at escalating conflict with authority. Both pose a serious challenge to the city, and Lightfoot hasn’t done much of anything to stop either, frankly. Yes, Lightfoot has become the target of the president’s criticism, but for good reason. It’s not nonsense to say that both violent crime and civil unrest seem to be beyond the scope of the city’s ability or willingness to tackle those issues head-on, no matter how much Lightfoot doesn’t want to hear it.
If she had a better response than “that’s nonsense,” she’d use it. She’d cite statistics showing that homicides and shootings are down year-to-year, that on-the-job injuries for law enforcement have declined in 2020, and that stores aren’t still being looted in the city’s high-rent neighborhoods. Unfortunately for Lightfoot, she can’t say any of those things without lying. Instead, she’s forced to try to deflect the criticism back on to her critics.
When it comes to the political violence like the clash between police and rioters trying to tear down a Christopher Columbus statue on Friday, Lightfoot’s at least attempting to talk tough, saying “that’s not peaceful protest, that’s anarchy” and vowing to put down future disturbances. If, however, Chicago PD feel like they could use some outside help, Lightfoot is apparently willing to come down on the side of anarchy.
As for the violent crime in Chicago, Lightfoot reiterated once again today that it’s not her fault that Chicago’s seen a spike in shootings and homicides. The fault, according to the mayor, lies with President Trump.
“Every year, our police department takes more illegal crime guns than NYPD and LAPD combined, and that’s because they are flowing over the border from Indiana. They’re coming up from southern states like Mississippi, and we have gun dealers just at the border of our city that are selling illegal guns,” she said.
I’ve written about this before, but here’s the deal. In 2018, about 10,000 firearms were traced in the state of Illinois. About 1,500 of them came from Indiana. More than 5,000 came from Illinois itself. Illinois criminals have no problem illegally arming themselves with guns originally sold in Illinois. Speaking of violent criminals, did Lightfoot have anything to say about them?
“He could fully fund the ATF here in Chicago. He could fully fund additional prosecutors to focus on gun violence cases. He could empower the ATF to actually do what they’re supposed to do, which is go after illegal gun sales, go after federally licensed gun dealers that aren’t doing their jobs, are selling to people that they know are straw purchasers that have no intent whatsoever to possess those guns, and turn them over in a parking lot to the real person who’s going to take those guns. These are some easy, simple things that the president could do,” she added. “He could make sure that we close the gun show loophole. We could pass universal background checks. We could make sure that people that aren’t allowed to fly don’t get guns. These are simple things that could happen if the president is serious about helping us with the violence, and the thing that he can do is to stop the flow of illegal guns in our city.”
Why on earth did Lori Lightfoot bring up banning people on the No Fly List from buying guns? Does she really think that’s who’s committing the city’s violent crime? More importantly, Lightfoot is accusing Trump of playing fast and loose with the Constitution by using “federal agents without any insignia” to take people off the streets and unlawfully detain them, but she wants to make it illegal for someone to purchase a gun even if they haven’t been accused or are even suspected of a crime. Do you know how someone gets put on the No Fly List? I bet Lori Lightfoot doesn’t either, but it doesn’t involve a court hearing or anything like that. In fact, you might not even know you’re on the list until you try to fly (or in Lightfoot’s world, try to purchase a gun).
The problem isn’t a lack of federal gun laws, it’s a lack of enforcement of local laws in Chicago. Police simply don’t make many arrests in shootings and homicides, and one of the biggest issues is a lack of cooperation from witnesses, and in some cases victims. Not only is there a taboo against “snitching,” there’s also a very real fear on the part of residents that it’s simply not worth the risk to speak up, only to see a shooter strike a plea bargain and quickly return to the streets. This is something that Lori Lightfoot can and should address immediately.
The way to reduce violence is to ensure that there are swift and certain consequences for committing acts of violence. When less than half of homicides get cleared, and fewer than 20% of shootings, criminals believe they can usually get away with it, and they’re right. If they are caught, they’re almost sure to be offered a plea bargain on reduced charges that will result in less prison time.
Chicago is failing to deliver on its promise of justice for victims of violent crime, and that’s not the fault of President Trump or even Chicago police. This is a matter of the mayor, the D.A., state, and federal prosecutors working together to target the city’s most violent and prolific offenders, not passing some unenforceable and unconstitutional gun control law. Lightfoot needs to either take responsibility for the failures of her administration and reverse course, or step aside so that someone who’s up to the task can take over the job.