Even with the Bruen decision, there are some places where it’s not particularly easy to get a permit to carry a gun. They can’t make you provide some BS “need” before you get a permit, but these states are more than happy to throw up as many roadblocks as possible before you can get it.
Then there are those who wouldn’t get a permit no matter how easy you made it simply because they’re not going to follow the law anyway.
One place having a problem with that sort is Chicago, and a recent letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times takes issue with a potential solution.
The arguments for new penalties for illegal gun possession have been driven by a narrative that Chicago’s existing gun possession laws are not leading to enough arrests, charges or convictions, or that the current Cook County state’s attorney is “soft” on guns. These narratives are simply false. On the contrary, Chicago is aggressively policing and prosecuting unlicensed gun possession.
This state’s attorney who isn’t soft on guns would be the same one that refused to prosecute either side of a gang battle citing “mutual combat.”
You’ll forgive me for thinking she’s soft on armed criminals.
But that’s just one part, let’s get to the crux of what I want to talk about with this letter.
Doubling down on existing and punitive criminalization of gun possession will not prevent violence in our communities. Implementing excessive fines for people who carry guns illegally will waste city resources by pursuing payments from those who are mostly unable to pay them, and will drain needed resources from poor communities.
Look, we need to understand something here and now. When you implement a fine as a punishment, what you’re basically saying is that it’s legal for a price.
If you say, hypothetically, that getting caught carrying a firearm illegally in Chicago will result in a $200 fine and I don’t mind paying that if I get caught, then there’s absolutely no reason for me to worry about the law. And since concealed means concealed, there’s also a good chance I wouldn’t get caught anyway.
Of course, that’s all precluded on someone actually intending on paying. These guys aren’t likely to trip over themselves paying a fine in the first place, which means these fines aren’t really going to be the deterrent some think they’ll be.
So yeah, while I’m sure I disagree with the letter writer on a lot of the particulars, she’s not wrong about the issues of using fines to combat illegal guns in Chicago.
But deeper than that, the idea of fines for not jumping through government-mandated hoops in order to exercise a constitutionally protected right does directly impact those least able to pay the fine.
As a result “legal for a price” translates to “legal for the more wealthy” with a sliding scale based on just how high the fine itself is.
Further, it’s not a deterrent for anyone because most people figure they’re not likely to get caught in the first place. That’s especially true of the criminal underclass that these laws are supposedly trying to deter in the first place.
Let’s be honest, these are people who are robbing and shooting folks–crimes with real punishments. If they were worried about being caught, they’d likely not do any of that, so no, fines aren’t actually going to do much to keep such folks from carrying guns illegally.
Look, I get the idea. If something is illegal, there has to be some kind of punishment associated with it or else there’s no chance anyone will follow the law. You also have to keep the punishment from being ridiculous.
But it’s clear fines for carrying guns illegally aren’t going to cut it, and at some point, you have to recognize that those laws–regardless of the punishment–are really just something being considered by those you have the least to worry about.