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No Trace Of Truth | Chicago’s Awful Alibi

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In this column, A1F Daily trains its watchdog eye on The Trace, Michael Bloomberg’s new anti-“gun news” site.

In a Nov. 2 feature titled, “Watch How Chicago Gets Flooded with Thousands of Crime Guns,” The Trace tries to make the argument that Chicago’s crime is caused by guns from other states. It’s one of the newer pro-gun-control arguments that assumes the shaky premise that guns by themselves inevitably cause crime—and disease, and increased aggression, and accidental discharges, etc.

The Trace has even produced evidence its editors must think proves that point: They have a map. The unsubtle message of the map is that Chicago is not to blame for its intractable plague of gun homicide; neighboring suburbs and states that respect gun rights are the problem. If only they were more like Chicago, then Chicago would be more like Mayberry.

This map has lots of dots that are supposed to represent individual guns flowing into Chicago from around the country. To help you understand how important this is, there is a prompt to view it full screen, where you expect to find additional facts to support their argument. However, all you get are animated dots that flow into Illinois from neighboring states, while a counter rolls up a total of “10,406 imported crime guns.” One can’t help but think, “I went full-screen for this?”

The Trace likens guns to cockroaches that spread from gun-plentiful areas to gun-scarce ones. The dots on its map are designed to mimic this infestation, as if six-shooters had six legs.

The unsubtle message of the map is that Chicago is not to blame for its intractable plague of gun homicide; neighboring suburbs and states that respect gun rights are the problem. If only they were more like Chicago, then Chicago would be more like Mayberry.

The authors stumble from one misleading statement to another. The subhead states, “88 percent of guns recovered in Illinois were seized in Chicago.” This is relevant data? Does anyone think they were recovered in Champagne-Urbana?

“While the Windy City outlaws gun stores, straw purchasers can pick up firearms in neighboring suburbs that have track records of failing to police the gun sellers within their borders.” (Emphasis ours.) The Trace is referring to gun sellers with a track record of following all state and federal laws—but that just isn’t good enough, apparently.

The Trace names 15 neighboring states that they blame for being the source of Illinois crime guns. Oddly, not one city in those states suffers from rampant criminal violence on a scale like Chicago’s. If these guns carry a contagion of criminal violence, why do they have to travel to Chicago before they infect anyone?

The real question posed by the map is this: What’s wrong with Chicago? If those guns could scamper anywhere, why do they keep turning up in the Windy City?

Why aren’t Indianapolis, Ind., or Jackson, Miss., infected—the largest cities in the top two states on The Trace’s list? Milwaukee, the third state on the list, is struggling with its own crime problem, but it’s nowhere near the scale of Chicago’s. Even so, shouldn’t Madison also suffer? Or Green Bay? If these guns carry a contagion of criminal violence, why do they have to travel to Chicago before they infect anyone?

No, Chicago’s crime problem is entirely self-inflicted. No less an authority than Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy continuously bemoans the fact that the court system releases criminals caught with guns faster than cops can arrest them. He tells us gang members don’t drop their guns in confrontations with Chicago police because they fear gang retribution more than they fear Chicago justice.

Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) could cut Chicago homicide by a third with literally a wave of the wand—a reduction accomplished by Richmond, Va., under similar circumstances with Project Exile in 1997. Under federal law, a felon caught with a gun automatically goes to jail for five years without parole, but Chicago ranks last in federal gun prosecutions among all 90 districts.

In fact, Obama’s DOJ has failed to prosecute gun crime on a massive scale. Federal gun prosecutions have dropped by 25 percent since he took office. In 2013, the DOJ brought 5,082 gun violation cases recommended by the ATF. Compare that number with the 6,791 cases brought in 2008, the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency. The 2013 total is 42 percent less than that in 2004, the highest year of the Bush administration.

Chicago is Obama’s hometown, as it were, which makes it even more appalling when he travels there to stump for more federal gun control: “60 percent of guns recovered in crimes come from out of state. You’ve just got to hop across the border.” He boasts he could win a third term, but to paraphrase Peggy Noonan, why run? He could be president now, if he wanted to.

But no … it’s all Indiana’s fault. Or Mississippi’s. Or Wisconsin’s, for crying out loud. In effect, Obama, Chicago and The Trace are like spoiled children, telling us that someone else ate the chocolate cake …

… but their faces are smeared with evidence to the contrary.

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