How not to write about Chicago’s crime problem

An unsympathetic outsider visits the Windy City.

If you have to write a story about Chicago’s crime problem, you couldn’t do much worse than Kevin Williamson’s “Gangsterville: How Chicago reclaimed the projects but lost the city,” on the web at the National Review.

To be sure, Williamson makes a few good points. He notes, for example, that the decline of disciplined hierarchical gangs may have brought unintended consequences. He reminds the youngsters of notorious Chicago gangsters Larry Hoover and Jeff Fort. In just about every other way, this piece illustrates much that is wrong in the way millions of Americans view the urban scene.

He notes–but variously seems to forget– that it’s not Dodge City here. Chicago homicide rates—though up roughly 20 percent between 2011 and 2012—remain a notch below levels of ten or fifteen years ago. Homicide rates are way below the levels of the early 1990s and the crack epidemic years. Non-homicide crime rates have also declined. Our homicide decline has been too slow when compared with LA or New York. Still, many cities—Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, Camden–would love to have Chicago’s problems or our crime rate.

Williamson’s article is filled with homespun wisdom such as the following:

The usual noises were made about gun control, and especially the flow of guns from nearby Indiana into Chicago, though nobody bothered to ask why Chicago is a war zone and Muncie isn’t.

I don’t know about Muncie, which is four hours away. People have bothered to ask about our almost-immediate neighbor: Gary, Indiana. An April 2012 Chicago magazine piece described swathes of Gary’s housing stock as “burned and cratered as if in a war zone.”

The piece goes on to note:

….Gary was the murder capital of the nation for several years running in the 1990s and 2000s. By 2011, the city’s murder rate had dropped a fair amount, to 4.4 per 10,000—which may sound like great news until you consider that’s still nearly three times Chicago’s rate and seven times New York City’s.

Especially baffling is Williamson’s choice of all-around wise man to show him around. The typecast tour-guide in a magazine piece from forty years ago would have been a heavy-set Mike Royko look-alike, who would perhaps dispense politically-incorrect wisdom from his favorite booth in a Greek diner. This time around, an immigrant from Pakistan named Mr. Butt is cast in the same role.

I never really understood who Mr. Butt was, or why Williamson turned to him as his guide. The mysterious Mr. Butt drives Williamson around the south side, offering derogatory keepin’-it-real-talking-points throughout:

Mr. Butt is dearly missing his AK-47…. [In] Chicago he cannot possess even a pea-shooter, which has him slightly nervous in his role as my ghetto tour guide, chauffeuring me through the worst parts of Englewood and Garfield, the biggest battlegrounds in Chicago’s 21st-century gangland warfare.

… He points out Bridgeport, home of the venerable Daley clan, and informs me wistfully that in the old days blacks simply were not allowed to cross the bridge into Bridgeport, a social norm enforced with baseball bats and worse. Mr. Butt is a big, big Daley fan — “He was very strong, strong with the mob!” — and no fan at all of Chicago’s new breed of gangsters. “On the South Side, it is just like Afghanistan. Every square mile has its own boss, and everybody has to answer to him. From the business district through 31st Street, everything is perfect.” Perfect may not be the word, but I get his point. “Below 31st Street, everything is jungle.”

Yup: “jungle.”

Mr. Butt locks the doors, and we cruise through Englewood and environs. Martin Luther King Drive, like so many streets named for the Reverend King, is a hideous dog show of squalor and dysfunction, as though Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s depressing reportage in 1965’s The Negro Family had been used as a how-to manual. Mr. Butt points out the dealers, who don’t really need pointing out. It’s about 8 degrees outside, and the Windy City is living up to its name. In the vicinity of Rothschild Liquors, grim-faced men in heavy coats smoke cigarillos and engage in commerce. Mr. Butt’s habit of pointing out miscreants by literally pointing them out brings scowls from the street. Lying low is not Mr. Butt’s strong suit.

Mr. Butt takes me to see the sights: In front of Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School, there’s commerce. On Garfield Boulevard, at 58th and Ashland, in front of the various storefront churches, pawn shops, tax-refund-loan outlets, the mighty wheels of endless commerce roll on and on.

“They do this to their own neighborhood,” Mr. Butt says, exasperated. “They make it a place no decent person would want to be….”

Williamson would obviously distance himself from Mr. Butt’s worst comments. Just as obviously, Williamson believes his tour guide has some valuable homespun wisdom to offer.

Although the title mentions “How Chicago reclaimed the projects,” we don’t find out very much about either the projects or how they might have beeen reclaimed. There’s no historical discussion of the housing policies that led miles of high-rise projects to be jammed alongside I-94 in the first place, or the practical challenges the city has faced in its efforts to tear the projects down and to relocate their residents. Aside from local (lack-of) color regarding Bridgeport, there’s no discussion of (either) Mayor Daley’s approach to these fundamental problems. There’s no discussion of so many things that matter to Chicago’s current struggles.

Williamson and Butt apparently never visited a school, hospital or public health clinic, police station, courthouse, jail, or community center. They didn’t visit the Apostolic Church of God on 63rd Street, whose 20,000 parishoners might have provided valuable insights. They didn’t visit the Ida B. Wells House or the other historic, often-beautiful Bronzeville sites along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. They didn’t talk with politicians or community leaders. They may well have driven past the glorious Garfield Park Conservatory. I rarely carry an AK-47 when I visit there on the L.

Instead, the two buddies drive around tough places with the windows rolled up and the doors locked, stopping one or two times to banter with a few hoodlum-types. Surprisingly, these conversations turn out to be… un-illuminating. Had they actually wished to speak with people who sell drugs or who are affected by this trade, they might have arranged to speak with someone in that life, as other reporters have done. Regular people appear, if at all, as stage extras in the crude story he tells.

Williamson’s piece signals contempt for hundreds of thousands of people in Chicago’s south and west sides. He’s the unsympathetic outsider who drops in from a million miles away, earns the cheap thrill of meeting an apparent street criminal, scores some fairly obvious Tom-Wolfe talking points regarding urban liberalism. Williamson betrays little real curiosity to learn what’s going on.

Yeah, there’s a bad crime problem in many of these neighborhoods. These are still real communities filled with interesting people who have interesting stories to tell. You have to want to hear it, though.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

58 thoughts on “How not to write about Chicago’s crime problem”

  1. Why even waste bits critiquing a Kevin Williamson piece on NRO? If you had told me just the author and the subject, I could have told you he would have found only urban jungle. The title of the piece is “Gangsterville,” after all, and the lede is a quote written in vernacular that signals “black drug dealer.” Predictably, the words “Cabrini-Green” appear about half a dozen times in the first three paragraphs. Williamson had this piece written before he ever got to Chicago. His tour with Mr. Butt was just filling in details.

  2. Harold (and other RBC readers in Chicago): For a reality-based change of pace from Williamson’s piece, go see Collaboraction Theatre’s “Crime Scene,” a brilliant piece of documentary reporting presented theatrically. The after-show talk-back–actually part of the show, and about the issues raised rather than the show itself–would be worth the price of admission even if the show weren’t as good as it is. collaboraction.org

  3. “I don’t know about Muncie, which is four hours away. People have bothered to ask about our almost-immediate neighbor: Gary, Indiana.”

    It is a fair point: Any time a local jurisdiction complains that they have a high crime rate because of guns brought in from elsewhere, they DO have to explain why elsewhere doesn’t have a worse crime rate. The fact that there are other local jurisdictions with awful crime rates doesn’t moot the question.

    Trying to go after guns someplace else is just a way of avoiding admitting you’ve got a cultural problem right where you are, and that the people someplace else aren’t the problem.

        1. To be fair, lead exposure likely also contributes. And also won’t be dealt with by infringing the rights of people living elsewhere…

    1. Brett,
      I might be wrong, but I think that Harold’s point was that allowing fairly free gun ownership (Indiana law) doesn’t make people any safer.

        1. The debate over gun control is really simple. If we have categories of people we shouldn’t sell guns to (stalkers, fugitives from justice, domestic violence offenders, felons) than we need universal background checks. I actually am more generous on who should own a gun then I am on what they should be allowed to have. Magazines with more than ten bullets should not be allowed and you should have to keep it in your house.

          1. “The debate over gun control is really simple. If we have categories of people we shouldn’t sell guns to (stalkers, fugitives from justice, domestic violence offenders, felons) than we need universal background checks.”

            Because this will actually stop them from obtaining guns? So I guess we need universal background checks for purchasing cocaine… only pharmacists and people with prescriptions could pass the check, so there would be no more illegal drug problem.

    2. A readiness to sell guns to hoodlums from out of town isn’t a “cultural problem” for Muncie?

          1. Yes, and the lesson of the war on drugs is that passing a law won’t actually get rid of either of them.

  4. The mysterious Mr. Butt drives Williamson around the south side, offering derogatory keepin’-it-real-talking-points throughout:

    I am going to guess that Mr. Butt is Williamson’s imaginary friend. Either he’s a stand in for some other people, or more likely Mr. Butt is the person Williamson thinks should exist but can’t find, thus Mr. Butt is saying what Mr. Williamson can’t say directly. (An NRO guy talking to a Pakistani immigrant? Really?)

    max
    [‘I bet if I read the piece I could figure it out, but NRO gets no hits from me. I figure I filled my quota for a decade or two long ago, so I’m just cite the bonus miles.’]

  5. Mr. Butt is far and away my favorite part of this. Just this mystical foreign figure who swoops in and out (presumably on a magic carpet) to deliver a bunch of K-Will’s talking points. I hope he is a recurring character and we see him in other NR stories — inexplicably in different occupations and living in different cities, but always there for the same purpose.

    (Also, on a purely editorial note, kinda baffling that K-Will’s editor wasn’t like, “Dude, maybe just half a sentence on who this guy is and why he is your [and the readers’] guide to these neighborhoods?”)

  6. Also I hate to say that those who are so willing to say it’s a cultural problem are basically saying that we shouldn’t suffer any inconvenience so that some of these African American kids can possibly get a second chance (and since guns are so much more lethal than other weapons this is the case.) Maybe that’s pulling the race card but I think it’s true.

    1. “Cultural problem” can mean two different things – either an ethnic slur or an assessment of the ill social effects of poverty and economic segregation.

      Those interested in the historical context of housing projects ought to check out The excellent documentary The Pruitt Ingoe Myth (available on Netflix).

      1. “Cultural problem” pretty much rules out an ethnic slur, unless you’re just going to read what you want into comments regardless of the words chosen.

        The definition of “culture” I had in mind is: “A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.”

        What I’m saying is that areas of this country, indeed any country, which suffer from high rates of violent crime, are suffering from the effects of a dysfunctional culture. A culture can be peaceful, it can be violent. It can encourage honestly and hard work, it can encourage dishonesty and sloth.

        You look at this country, there are areas with lots of guns, and peaceful. There are areas where the people are poor, and peaceful, OTOH, there are areas where there are lots of guns, and they are violent. Areas where there’s lots of poverty, and they’re violent. This does tend to indicate that violence is a product of culture, not guns or poverty. There are other indications, like music which glorifies violence and misogamy.

        Chicago doesn’t have a gun problem, in the sense that with a better culture, the guns wouldn’t be used for wrongful purposes. But how do you solve a culture problem with laws? So it’s kind of understandable that people wouldn’t want to correctly identify the problem, it might seem intractable.

        Oh, and one of the reasons I say it’s a cultural problem, is that in the areas that exhibit this dysfunction, it’s not limited to one ethnic group. There may be a correlation there, but it’s far from perfect.

        It’s a cultural problem, and we damned well better find a way to deal with cultural problems. Because they’re all around us.

        1. I’ll leave it someone with a stronger stomach to dissect Brett more thoroughly, but one point: Gun violence is indisputedly more prevalent in poorer areas. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in other areas, but we are talking about an 8-10 times increase. Nor does it mean that all poor areas are violent, but again, it is not a disputable point that statistically, you are more likely to die from gun fire from non-police sources the poorer that area you go into or live in. And these areas are overwhelmingly non-white. So, using the word “culture” to describe them is a dog-whistle. Because everyone who is not fooling themselves into believing that all Americans have the same chance to grow up and be safe understands this. The others cry that it si the “culture”, never minding that this was created by isolating the poor.

          And while having fewer guns may not solve the problem entirely, it certainly will reduce it. Which is in itself a good enough reason to have background checks and a mandated waiting period.

          1. I absolutely LOATHE this notion of dog whistles. Because that’s just what we need: Another excuse for ignoring what other people say, and imputing to them what they didn’t say. How can we ever have a conversation, if you take what people say, and put it through a ‘translator’ that converts it into something else if they have the nerve to not agree with you?

            Two could play this game, I suppose, but let’s not.

            When I say culture, I mean culture. Not race, or ethnicity. Two groups of people, with different cultures, will react completely differently under identical circumstances. If a culture is broken, changing the circumstances won’t do much to fix it.

            And here you are, talking about forcing changed circumstances on the people whose culture ISN’T broken, in an attempt to do something about people whose culture IS broken. Like telling me I can’t have salt on my fries, because somebody else has hypertension.

          2. Loathe it all you want, Brett, but when there is a conflation of things that are evident to all but the speaker, who has a revealed agenda for conflating the two things, what are we supposed to say? THIS TIME you mean something special? I think not.
            You cannot define culture without using demographics. Not in anyway meaningful, at any rate. It is exactly the demographics that define the specific culture, as opposed to saying “all gun owners” or “all poor people”. Otherwise you are parsing things so finely that everyone is a unique piece.

            I’m not putting things through a translator. I’m telling you that when you try to slice and dice the data to prove your point, you reveal your inherent bias. This is not a new idea. Specifically, when you say that
            “I say it’s a cultural problem, is that in the areas that exhibit this dysfunction, it’s not limited to one ethnic group. There may be a correlation there, but it’s far from perfect.” you define away the one consistent factor of poverty, and its relation to race. There are clearly multiple ethnicities involved, but they are all non-white. THAT”S the dog whistle.

          3. Brett, you very often impute what folks really mean.
            Don’t go there, unless you want me to find five times in the last twelve months you have done it.

            And even sometimes admitted it. (eg Nuclear power vs carbon footprint. Gun controllers ‘hate guns’.)

          4. @mobiusklein–

            your threat is empty because it assumes that he can be in any way shamed by anything he has said over the course of the past several years on this site. bret bellmore has demonstrated that he is completely and totally shameless with respect to everything. he is willing to lie, distort, ignore, confuse effect for cause and vice versa, confuse chronology to make a point, and generally ignore logic. he has no shame. there is nothing in your “threat” that in any way threatens brett. additionally, he is argumentative and thin-skinned. it is for all of those reasons that i no longer respond to brett except under the special circumstances of my agreeing with a larger point of his while disagreeing in the details (e.g. nuclear power).

          5. The Greek chorus repeats the refrain for the audience, not the cast. The cast has the lines memorized.

        2. The anonymous comment was mine. I wasn’t attributing anything to anyone in particular, but rather to add nuance to what Simon wrote. I noticed in his words a critique of the tendency of some to attribute social ills to ethnicity. I wanted to carve out a space for a critique not of ethnicity, but rather socio-economic circumstance, which would not even then be of the individual but rather the society which promotes such structural dynamics. I’m hesitant to describe dysfunctional behavior as “cultural”, though, because it is as you mention less about a particular group of people but rather specific behaviors that are often isolated within the larger community, even when their impact is felt greatly. But then there are things like lack of parent education and its effect on parenting – is that culture, or merely circumstance with behavioral consequences?

  7. I am shocked, shocked that Williamson has written a tale about how Black people are unruly monsters that befoul and destroy their own neighborhoods, the saga of how he Dared to venture bravely forth into jungle wilds as lawless and dangerous as Afghanistan with his trusty, dusky native guide and bearer (who may or may not exist), a land BesetBeset by vicious Warring tribes whose notice he must hope to escape, lamenting along with his Sherpa that, this time, they have not got the Maxim gun the situation calls for.

    And in the National Review to boot, a, magazine that was basically established to cultivate the ability of writers to sublimate their desire to write “N*gg*r N*gg*r N*gg*r” by expressing the same general views in more cultured prose.

    My gob, it is smacked. You could knock me over with a combine harvester.

  8. Great post, Harold. It’s also really upsetting that Williamson and his ilk wouldn’t give a sh*t about the slaughter in Chicago if the president weren’t from there. Crass and cheap political attacks of the most nauseating kind. Talk about exploitation.

    1. Hmm. The community organizer really did a wonderful job at stemming violence in his neighborhood. Time to elect him to the State Senate. Or U.S. Senate. Or White House. No, get this man a grant from the Joyce Foundation. No, after all the work he’s done for peace on the South Side, maybe we can get him a Nobel Peace Prize. In a few short days, the College of Cardinals is expected to let off a plume of white smoke and signal that they have elected Barack Obama to be the new pope. Also, henceforth, given his work in bringing peace to the Southside of Chicago, as well as the U.S. and indeed the world, he will also be christened “The Prince of Peace.”

      In other news, people are considering renaming the Peter Principle.

  9. Indiana? The bad guys or their straw-man suppliers don’t have to leave Cook County to get all the guns they want.
    From TheSun Times :

    “And the No. 1 supplier of those weapons is just a short drive from Chicago, Chuck’s Gun Store in south suburban Riverdale.

    “From 2008 to March 2012, the police successfully traced the ownership of 1,375 guns recovered in crimes in Chicago within a year of their purchase.

    “Of those guns, 268 were bought at Chuck’s — nearly one in five.”

    1. This raises a number of questions:

      Are “guns recovered in crimes” the same as “guns used in crimes, and recovered”? If you capture a burglar who has just stolen a gun from somebody, I suppose that could be characterized as a “gun recovered in a crime”. They could have asked the authorities to clarify this point.

      Was Chuck’s the largest supplier of eventually illegal guns, because they were particularly bad at detecting illegal purchasers? Or because they were just the highest volume local dealer, and no worse on average? 268 guns were tracked back to Chuck’s, but how many guns total did Chuck move in that time? They could have asked, but apparently didn’t bother. Would have made the story too “contexty”, I guess…

      Were the purchases straw purchases? Purchased by criminals who could legally buy guns, because they had yet to be convicted of anything? Stolen from legal purchasers?

      A point you have to remember about straw purchases is that unless the purchaser makes a stupid mistake, there’s absolutely no way for a gun dealer to know a straw purchase is taking place. So, of course, the newspaper article describes a straw purchaser making bone headed mistakes, like bringing in the real buyer with him, to make it sound like avoiding them is an easy task. But it’s essentially impossible unless the purchaser goofs up.

  10. A point you have to remember about straw purchases is that unless the purchaser makes a stupid mistake, there’s absolutely no way for a gun dealer to know a straw purchase is taking place.

    And since background check data is conveniently (conveniently for straw purchasers and their customers) destroyed there is no way to identify repeat straw buyers. This is classic. The NRA “wants existing laws enforced,” but does all it can to block their enforcement.

    1. “there is no way to identify repeat straw buyers.”

      Not true: You find a gun in the hands of a criminal. You trace it. That DOES identify who bought it, and where. If, over time, you find multiple guns originally purchased by the same individual, you have the basis for going after them as a straw buyer. You know, the usual course of law enforcement, where people are left the hell alone until evidence they’re guilty of something surfaces? Instead of requiring them to provide the government with an open window into their lives, so that data mining can be used as a basis to guide fishing expeditions?

      I suppose you could require book stores, and Amazon, to deliver to the government lists of books purchased by people, so that if I bought books on chemistry, and was found to have a copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook, they could raid my house to see if I was building bombs. But we don’t, and let’s not do the equivalent to gun owners.

      Admittedly, I and a lot of NRA members wince every time the NRA comes out with that “enforce existing laws” crap. We OPPOSE a lot of the existing laws, and don’t want them enforced. We want them repealed. I’m glad they’re finally coming around on that.

        1. I would countenance restrictions on what you can *do with* guns. No using them to coerce people into handing over money, or submitting to sexual interaction. No killing or wounding people outside of self-defense. I would absolutely countenance prohibiting people from using guns to do things that would be illegal if you used a club or a knife to do them. Or using guns in a way which is unreasonably dangerous, such as target shooting in an urban area without a backstop.

          What I wouldn’t countenance is making a crime of simple possession.

          1. It’s very glib, what you do there.

            There are differences between guns and clubs that are vast. Clubs don’t kill at range, or with auto-fire. We _rightfully_ criminalize the possession of bio-weapons. We don’t have to treat guns an clubs as magically identical either.

            Look at effectiveness of gun regulation in other countries to form your answer too. (and when you blame culture, you sound racist, whether you mean it or not. Sorry dude – find another way to express that notion.)

          2. “We _rightfully_ criminalize the possession of bio-weapons.”

            I’m curious: Do you think it’s possible to aim a bio-weapon? To us it for self defense? Is there ANY USE AT ALL for a bio-weapon which isn’t wrongful?

            How can you legitimately compare a bio-weapon to weapons which not only CAN be used in a moral fashion, but routinely ARE used in a moral fashion?

          3. I might add that, while I don’t want to BE racist, I have no interest at all as to whether I SOUND ‘racist’ to people with a tendency to read racism into any expression of disagreement with themselves. If I mean race, I will say race, if I mean culture, I will say culture, and I expect, (If only as a normative matter.) you to understand these two words mean different things.

            ‘Liberals’ have long been using imputations of “racism” to silence lines of reasoning they don’t like. You have an elaborate system in place for taking any expression of disagreement with yourselves, and re-coding it into something despicable, regardless of how much care the speaker took to NOT say something despicable. “Dog-whistles”, for instance. I really don’t care to let you censor the conversation. So scream “racism!” all you like, I Just Don’t Care.

          4. I say you sound racist rather than say you are racist. Would you rather me guess what is in your heart?
            Blaming ‘culture’ is a rather shitty way of blaming the victims, and you are associating yourself with actual racists when you repeat it. Sorry. You said it, you own it. For further elucidation, visit http://yoisthisracist.com/

            So yeah, it’s a racist thing to say. Don’t censor yourself, but know what others will think, and don’t be shocked when a ton of people hear racism.

      1. let’s not do the equivalent to gun owners.

        It’s not remotely equivalent. Buying and reselling books is not illegal, among other things.

        Besides the fact that current tracing methods are slow and sometimes ineffective, your method will not catch straw purchasers. Again, the purchase itself is a crime, regardless of whether the gun is ever recovered from a criminal.

        1. Plenty of things are crimes, regardless of whether they’re caught. That’s no justification for a Panopticon state that gets to know everything about your life, in the hope it might detect a crime.

          First, show a crime has been committed. Then show a connection between it and a specific person. THEN get nosy about that person’s life.

          1. What about full autos and RPGs Brett? Should we allow everyone to have those? If not, then does that not contradict your earlier statements? If so, do you really want to be more extreme than Barry Goldwater.

          2. I think rocket propelled grenades are ripe for the same sort of “time, place, and manner” restrictions speech is routinely subjected to. Machine guns are not, if you aren’t criminally inclined, anything more than a way to blow through a fortune in ammo in a short time. If you ARE criminally inclined, laws prohibiting people from owning them are not going to be any more effective than laws prohibiting possession of, say, methamphetamine.

            I’m quite comfortable being more radical than Barry Goldwater. He wasn’t very radical, after all.

          3. If you ARE criminally inclined, laws prohibiting people from owning [machine guns] are not going to be any more effective than laws prohibiting possession of, say, methamphetamine.

            Are machine guns widely owned, even by those who want them for criminal purposes?

          4. It’s estimated about a quarter million are legally owned by civilians in the US, maybe half by police. They don’t seem to be in common use by criminals, perhaps because they’re not terribly practical outside of certain military situations; They appear to represent under 1% of guns owned by criminals.

    1. You simply cannot have a dialogue with people who think RPGs and Full Autos should be available for civilian purposes and rebuts criticism by saying laws don’t work. Why have traffic lights? Why have speed limits? Hell why have government at all? We should all just be like Brett, cooped up with a military arsenal, taking the law into our hands.

      That kind of attitude is severely crazy.

      1. You can’t have a rational conversation with people who indulge in magical thinking, like believing criminals can’t buy guns on the black market if you require background checks.

        Traffic lights work because the people using them don’t want to be involved in collisions. They, along with most traffic laws, exist to further, not oppose, the interests of the people being regulated. Drug prohibition laws don’t work, because they’re directed at people who have no motive to comply with them except fear of enforcement, and that prohibitionist laws can’t be effectively enforced has been known since the days of Carrie Nation. Gun prohibition laws are no different, except that they are aimed at possession of something protected by an explicit civil liberty, and thus otherwise law abiding people feel free to violate them with a clean conscience, knowing the laws they’re violating to be illegitimate.

        If you’re looking for the source of Chicago’s problems, look in Chicago. That’s the bottom line.

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