Obama's Education Secretary Questions Gun Confiscations

Alex Brandon

It was only three years ago that Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education under Barack Obama, called on parents and students to boycott school until Congress passed new gun control laws. Now Duncan is singing a very different tune when it comes to preventing violence. In fact, the Chicago Democrat has a new op-ed in the Chicago Tribune that questions some of the fundamental beliefs of the gun control lobby.

Duncan uses the recent murder of Chicago police officer Ella French as his starting point, writing that her death and the wave of violence on city streets should “further prompt even deeper reflection on our collective failure to bring gun violence under control.” That’s when things get interesting.

Theories as to why gun violence is spiking run from COVID-19, the economy and civil unrest, to hot weather and low clearance rates. The truth is, no one knows for sure why the numbers go up and down. But we can at least ask questions.


For example, do we really expect police to prevent shootings, or merely to investigate them? Is it necessary for armed police to enforce traffic laws? Would unarmed traffic enforcers be less likely to escalate traffic stops into armed encounters? How many other non-violent or non-criminal activities might be better addressed by non-police? And does confiscating guns by the thousands each year reduce gun violence?


The fact is, there is no correlation between the number of guns recovered and the level of gun violence. In 2016, gun recoveries rose by 25% while the number of homicides increased almost 60%. In 2020, gun recoveries rose by about 50% the same as the homicide rate. . Some years, both numbers drop.


It may feel counterintuitive, but the likely explanation is simple. The vast majority of people carrying guns are not active shooters. They simply don’t feel safe, in large part because so few shootings in Chicago are solved.

Wow. Honestly, a lot of what Duncan says could have come from the mouth of Second Amendment activists in Illinois. Gun confiscation doesn’t reduce violent crime? Most people in Chicago illegally carrying a firearm are doing so because they don’t feel safe, not because they have any intent to commit a carjacking or a shooting on a crowded city street? If you or I said something like this, we’d be accused of parroting talking points from the gun lobby. Now that it’s a Democrat like Duncan who’s publicly stating that gun confiscation doesn’t lead to less violent crime, will the Left start to listen?

Treating gun violence exclusively with arrest and incarceration isn’t working. We have not had under 400 homicides in a single year since 1965, while our prison population has exploded. We already have one of the largest police forces in the country on a per capita basis. Adding more isn’t the answer.


As we honor officer French and pray for her partner, let’s also remember the hundreds of civilians dying from gun violence each year. Let’s remember the countless other community members struggling with physical and mental trauma, including many Chicago police officers. Like it or not, people and police are in this together and we all want the same thing: safety.

What’s interesting to me is that Duncan isn’t making a pro-Second Amendment argument, even though he’s arguing against the enforcement of the state’s prohibition on possessing a gun without a FOID card and carrying a firearm without a license. Duncan doesn’t use his op-ed to call for the repeal of the FOID card or reforming the state’s carry laws to make it easier for folks to obtain the mandated training, and in fact he doesn’t even mention the months-long delays that many Illinois residents are experiencing after applying for their FOID card or concealed carry license, though the backlog is undoubtably leading some folks to go ahead and carry in self-defense even though they don’t yet have their state-issued permission slip.

Instead, Duncan touts the work of Chicago CRED, a community violence prevention group he started a few years ago that pays stipends to at-risk individuals who meet benchmarks in turning their life away from drug and gang violence. Still, even though the former Obama administration official isn’t willing to go so far as to say that Chicago’s gun control laws are violating people’s constitutional rights, he’s at least willing to acknowledge that decades of entrenched anti-gun attitudes haven’t made Chicago any safer. That’s a big step in the right direction as well as another sign that the gun control lobby, which depends on policing to enforce the non-violent possessory laws it puts on the books, may be losing some of its luster among those on the Left who are looking for ways to reduce violent crime that don’t banning and arresting our way to safety.