22 May 2010

The Wisdom of Mayor Daley

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The Supreme Court is expected shortly to overturn the city of Chicago’s gun ban, and Mayor Richard M. Daley has been talking a lot about gun control.

Mike Dumke, a reporter for the in-no-way-conservative Chicago Reader, brought up at the mayor’s recent press conference the obvious point that Chicago’s draconian gun laws have been ineffective in stopping the use of guns in crime, and hizonner (while brandishing a police-confiscated military rifle complete with bayonet) proposed a hypothetical including the reporter.

Guns are one of the mayor’s favorite soapbox topics—he regularly goes out of his way to point out that he despises gun manufacturers and “extremists” like the NRA. “It’s really amazing how powerful they are,” he said today, standing next to a table covered with handguns, rifles, and even a machine gun that police had seized. “They’re bigger than the oil industry, bigger than the gas industry, bigger than Google, bigger than President Obama and the rest of them.” …

But even supporters of tough gun regulations—myself included—have to admit that it’s not clear how much they reduce violence. Despite having some of the most restrictive laws in the country, Chicago is a national leader in shootings and murders, and the mayor himself noted that “we’ve seen far too many instances in the last few weeks” of firearm violence, including the shooting that left a cop dead last night.

So I asked: since guns are readily available in Chicago even with a ban in place, do you really think it’s been effective? …

“Oh!” Daley said. “It’s been very effective!”

He grabbed a rifle, held it up, and looked right at me. He was chuckling but there was no smile.

“If I put this up your—ha!—your butt—ha ha!—you’ll find out how effective this is!”

For a moment the room was very, very quiet. I took a good look at the weapon. It had a long bayonet. (Was it seized during the Civil War?)

“If I put a round up your—ha ha!”

The photographers snapped away. Suddenly everybody started cracking up.

Daley went on. “This gun saved many lives—it could save your life,” he said—meaning, I think, that getting that gun off the street might have saved many lives, including mine.

And he went on some more. “We save all these guns that the police department seizes, you know how many lives we’ve saved? You don’t realize it. First of all, they’re taking these guns out of someone’s hands. They save their own life and they save someone else’s. You cannot count how many times this gun can be used. Thirty, forty times in shooting people and discharging a weapon. I think it’s very important.

“Next will be hand grenades, right? We’ll say that hand grenades are OK. I mean, how far can you go in regards to mass weapons? To me, any gun taken off saves thousands of lives in America. I really believe that, I don’t care what people tell me. You have to thank the police officers for seizing all these weapons. We lead the country in seizing weapons. This is unbelievable.”

I had to agree.

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Mayor Daley’s understanding of firearms and America is pretty sad. The National Rifle Association has typically around 3-4 million members, its membership roll fluctuating and tending to rise significantly when major new gun control initiatives make the news. The NRA is an influential lobbying organization, but its strength is not really a matter of the size of its membership or annual budget, which is certainly small potatoes compared to the oil and gas industries or Google. The NRA is influential because it represents the views of many millions of American sportsmen and gun owners who have demonstrated their opinions by voting against liberal politicians who supported gun control. The gun control issue has cost the democrats a great any congressional seats and certainly the Presidential election of 2000, in which Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee. Mayor Daley’s adversary on the gun control issue is not the NRA. It is the American people.

Mayor Daley then holds up the military rifle with fixed bayonet. He is holding it sideways, so we can only see the bottom. It is short, a carbine, and seems to have an extended magazine. I think it was probably an SKS with a a folding bayonet.

Did confiscating that SKS really save anybody’s life? It seems doubtful to me.

There is plenty of crime and many shootings take place in Chicago, but gangbangers and muggers tend to use pistols which are considerably easier to carry and conceal than a carbine. Mayor Daley’s “To me, any gun taken off saves thousands of lives in America.” is obviously craziness.

Chances are overwhelming that that SKS was never used in any crime whatsoever. (Anybody hear of any bayonetings in Chicago recently?) And guns actually fired in the commission of a crime tend to be used once, by and large, and then discarded. There are many, perhaps hundreds of, millions of guns in private hands in the United States. Some collectors own hundreds. The percentage of firearms actually ever used in crime is infinitesimal.

People like Mayor Daley want to focus law enforcement efforts on confiscating objects instead of apprehending criminals simply because taking weapons away from people not committing any crimes with them is so much easier than catching the bad guys.

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