Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot used Joe Biden’s trip to Illinois today to press the president on “common sense gun control” as the city’s violent crime rate has been soaring in recent weeks, after an already turbulent 2020. It turns out Lightfoot only spoke with Biden for a couple of moments before the president entered Marine One and flew off to an event promoting infrastructure in Crystal Lake, Illinois, but she got her photo op, which was really what this was all about.
It’s not Biden, after all, that’s preventing gun control legislation from passing in Congress. It’s the fact that it can’t get 60 votes in the Senate, and Democrats can’t get 50 votes to kill the filibuster. When it comes to Biden’s executive actions, it’s hard to believe that Lightfoot could find much to complain about; Biden’s already trying to broadly redefine firearms regulations to allow for backdoor gun bans of home-built guns and AR-style pistols without a vote in Congress, and he’s trying to install a committed gun control activist as head of the ATF. Biden’s not Lightfoot’s problem. It’s her own incompetence, and rather than acknowledge that her way is failing to make the city a safe place, she’s doubling down on her scapegoating of gun owners and the Second Amendment.
“It makes no sense that we have a no-fly list of people who are too dangerous to get on a plane, but yet they can purchase firearms,” she said.
Yeah, the lack of a No Fly, No Buy list is really what’s hampering the mayor’s efforts to stop people from shooting one another. Never mind the fact that Illinois law starts from the position that no one is allowed to own a gun. In order to exercise your privilege of gun ownership, you must first obtain a Firearms Owner ID card from the Illinois State Police (which, at the moment, is taking about seven months on average). For some odd reason, though, the vast majority of the people responsible for Chicago’s shootings and slayings aren’t abiding by the gun permit requirement.
The fact that Lightfoot would now declare that the solution to Chicago’s crime is to empower the government to prohibit the exercise of a fundamental right even without an arrest, conviction, or even the suspicion of a crime is all I need to know that the mayor is in over her head. I’m not a resident of Chicago, but if I were I’d be leading the campaign for Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s resignation. Her insistence that gun control is the answer to Chicago’s shootings is an insult to our civil rights, and her eagerness to blame everyone from gun stores in Indiana to the court system in Cook County is only adding to the danger for residents.
There are strategies that Lightfoot could put in place tomorrow that could reduce homicides and shootings. In fact, there are strategies that Chicago’s successfully used in the past that could be rolled out again, like Operation Ceasefire, which helped reduce murders by more than 25% in the city. As the Justice Department explains, the program involves local, state, and federal resources working in cooperation with one another to target the most violent and prolific offenders in any given community and to give them a choice: stop shooting and let us help you, or don’t and make us send you to prison for as long as we possibly can.
There are basically five components of Operation Ceasefire:
Analyzing of the dynamics of local gun violence: A city will collect and analyze basic data on gun violence, including the geographic location of violent incidents, demographic information on individuals involved in gun violence, and patterns of gang violence. This data will be used by the working group (described below) to design its strategy.
Organizing a working group that will design and implement the local strategy: A city will organize a working group that includes representation from public and private employment training and placement providers, criminal justice agencies (including District Attorney’s office, Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, and Probation Office, and the U.S. Attorney), community leaders, gang outreach workers, and public and private social service agencies that serve youthful offenders, youth at risk of violence, and gang members. Drawing on the data analysis above, each working group will design and implement a local strategy that includes: (a) directly communicating a violence prevention message to the gang members and youth most likely to commit gun violence, (b) linking these gang members and youth to training and employment opportunities, and (c) coordinating law enforcement efforts.
Communicating directly with the gang members and youth most likely to commit gun violence: A city will communicate directly with selected gang members and young people. This is accomplished primarily at group meetings known as “call ins” or “forums,” attended by representatives of the working group and the particular gang members and young people. At these meetings, the working group will set forth a two-part message: (a) gun violence must stop immediately or criminal justice agencies will intervene quickly and forcefully against those responsible; and (b) the group is there to support the gang members and youth with intensive services and employment.
Connecting gang members and young people to employment opportunities: Each city will strengthen its capacity to place the gang members and young people identified as most likely to commit gun violence in quality employment opportunities. This includes providing social services, “soft skills” training, ongoing support (such as mentoring and mutual support programs), and job training and placements.
Building a strategic law enforcement partnership: An essential component of this approach calls for criminal justice agencies to focus their enforcement efforts on the relatively small group of gang members and young people who “drive” gun violence as determined by the problem analysis described above – particularly to the extent that these gang members and young people disregard the message to cease gun violence.
No new gun control laws needed. No defunding of the police either. But, when implemented successfully, Operation Ceasefire tends to lead to fewer overall arrests even while dramatically improving public safety. Honestly, there’s something for those on the left, right, and in the middle to appreciate about the approach, but I haven’t heard Lori Lightfoot mention this proven strategy even once. She’d rather point her finger at gun owners I guess.
Well, I’m pointing a finger right back (you can guess for yourself which digit I’m using). What happens in your city is your responsibility, Madam Mayor, and if you weren’t such an anti-gun ideologue you’d recognize that the most effective public safety strategy revolves around focusing like a laser on about 12,000 residents of your city, and not taking potshots at the 100-million legal gun owners across the country.