Why does Chicago city government continue to defend its handgun freeze law? What are they afraid is going to happen if they allow law-abiding adults in Chicago to own a handgun? They are terrified of headlines like this: “54 shot in latest violence; 1-year-old girl is youngest victim.” Unfortunately, that’s not what might be the headlines if Chicago has to dismantle its handgun ban; that’s what the headlines are now—even with the handgun freeze in effect.
For the last forty years or so, gun control has been at the forefront of efforts by big city politicians to deal with violent crime—even though it is at best, utterly ineffective, and likely contributes to the code of silence in many ghetto neighborhoods. The law-abiding population is reluctant to testify against gang members for fear of retribution. I am sure that a few of these cowed witnesses might, if they could legally buy a handgun and get a concealed weapon permit, have the courage to testify in open court. But let’s not kid ourselves; if gang members are intent on taking revenge, they are going to kill you, or your children, or your grandchildren. Making guns available to the decent people in ghettos is only going to make a marginal difference with this problem.
No, the real problem is the one that urban politicians refuse to confront: the victimology of ghetto subculture. They refuse to confront it because for all the blame that urban politicians want to put on “the Man,” racism, and capitalism, the biggest problem in most ghettos today is the values of the population. For at least a generation, black students who have done well in school have been accused of “acting white.” This problem hasn’t gone away. What are your job prospects if you have done your best to not do well in school?
This victimology shows up in myriad ways. My son is in college at the moment. In his English composition class, the instructor—an African-American woman—told them that AIDS was invented by the U.S. government to kill off black people. (I guess killing off homosexuals, prostitutes, and hemophiliacs was just a fringe benefit.) Steve Cokely, an aide to Chicago’s mayor some years back, claimed that Jewish doctors were injecting AIDS into black babies. Anything, rather than admit that one of the scourges of the black community was the result of poor lifestyle choices in the black community.
A few years back, I watched a documentary about Watts in which various “community activists” claimed that the handguns that are such a large part of Los Angeles’ violence problem were dropped by police helicopters so that blacks would kill each other. These activists were so intent on portraying all black people as victims that they simply refused to consider the most plausible explanation: there were criminals in their midst who were intentionally going out and buying or stealing guns to use for murder.
Once Chicago’s handgun freeze goes away, the city will pass various registration and licensing measures to discourage handgun ownership—much like Washington, D.C. has done in the aftermath of D.C. v. Heller (2008). Eventually, after enough money has been wasted in court, Chicago will allow its law-abiding citizens to own handguns again. I’m not expecting a dramatic change in the level of violence.
Chicago, however, will be forced to admit that guns are only a symptom—and that they need to start confronting the cultural forces that make parts of the city into war zones. Will urban officials have the courage to admit that the biggest problem that the black ghetto faces today isn’t Klansmen, or institutionalized racism, but a subculture that refuses to look itself in the mirror?