Over the weekend, hip-hot artist Jasiri X posted this image on his twitter feed. It’s taken from the front page of the New York Daily News’ website. Note the screaming headline and the sympathetic caption: “Accused killer Dylann Roof had one chance at a stable family life — and his abusive dad ruined it for…
Although you probably haven’t heard about it in the news, through the first four months of 2013, homicides in Chicago were down substantially from 2012, a year that saw an alarming 506 murders here. Unfortunately, as the temperatures rise, the murder rate tends to go up. So Thursday’s Chicago Tribune may well foreshadow what’s to come:
A 56-year-old woman was shot to death in the South Chicago neighborhood, one of four people killed in South Side shootings since about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Eleven others survived attacks during a period of about 12 hours in which 15 people were shot, police said.
The Tribune then rattles off the basic facts of each shooting: The location and circumstances of each, and, if known, the victim’s identity. It’s a cold litany of death and injury written in the dispassionate tone of a reporter who’s seen it too many times to care.
That’s what these incidents have become? To the media, they’re names, numbers, addresses. Cold facts.
Worse, to the gun lobby, they’re another reason to point and sneer at the city where I was born. As the murder rate ticks up in Chicago this summer, you can be assured of one thing. Just like last year, there will be no shortage of fools using each successive death to proclaim that gun control “doesn’t work” because Chicago has “the toughest gun laws in the country” (by what measure, I have no idea). No one, of course, will bother to analyze facts; instead they’ll merely connect two dots–tough gun laws and an unacceptably high number of murders–which may or may not bear any relation to one another but happen, conveniently, to support their preferred political narrative.
I’ve written about this issue in the past. I’ve pointed out that the statistical evidence is inconclusive at best, and may actually undermine the anti-gun-control position. I’ve pointed out that over an eighteen year period from 1992 through 2010–all while Chicago had much tougher gun laws in place, including an outright ban on the ownership and sale of handguns–the number of annual murders here dropped by more than fifty percent, from 943 down to 436. And I’ve pointed out that the murder rate spiked to 506 in 2012, two years after the Supreme Court struck down the city’s handgun ban.
That doesn’t necessarily prove that tougher handgun laws result in lower homicide rates, but it hardly proves the opposite –that tough gun laws result in more homicides.
None of this matters, though, as the summer death toll rises. The newspapers will dutifully report each killing with the same antiseptic detachment you see in the Tribune article I linked to at the top of the page. And with each passing death, the NRA will privately crow and publicly finger wag at Chicago and its “tough” gun laws, using each bloodstain and each chalk outline to advance a political agenda that’s indifferent, at best, to what goes on in Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, as the summer passes, more and more parents will bury their kids, more and more siblings will bury their brothers and sisters, and more and more wives will bury their husbands and vice versa. As the gray hairs on my head can attest, I’ve buried enough family members to have at least a passing familiarity with what those folks are going through, and will continue to go through.
But those folks–the ones who bury murder victims in the city of Chicago–aren’t really people, are they? Not in the eyes of the statistics-gathering media or the gun fetishists. Nope. They’re just fodder.