Rob Wildeboer and I talk Chicago crime on public radio

My friend Rob Wildeboer and I discussed Chicago’s underground gun market and crime challenges on WBUR with Here & Now’s Robin Young. We had a useful conversation and a good experience. I appreciate WBUR’s willingness to speak with us, and the professionalism of the producers and staff.

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,, 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.

2 thoughts on “Rob Wildeboer and I talk Chicago crime on public radio”

  1. Your point concerning the gangs being unsophisticated consumers of guns, unable to run a nation-spanning smuggling system, seems peculiar. Couldn't the same be said about consumers of illegal drugs? Division of labor; Only the people supplying the guns need to know how to do it, the customer only needs to be able to find the supplier, and the supplier is trying to make this easy. So it doesn't really matter that they're unsophisticated consumers, if they can afford them. So, yes, the availability of illegal drugs does tell us your black market won't easily be reduced by legal changes elsewhere.

    In fact, It's kind of trivially true that most people with guns in Chicago will have gotten them from someplace else: Chicago is a city determined to infringe the right to keep and bear arms. Last I checked, there weren't ANY gun shops in the city limits of Chicago. Chicago's own war on legal gun ownership is why the guns come from other places!

    But the bigger point is something you've got to be hearing over and over. You're blaming Chicago's high gun crime rate on Indiana's 'lax' gun laws. But, why are Indiana's 'lax' gun laws not causing even worse crime in Indiana?

    The almost unavoidable conclusion is that the availability of guns is at most an enabling factor, while the truly causal factor, responsible for the huge variations in such crime from place to place, is *something about Chicago*. Something present, something lacking.

    And, why don't you focus on that, and leave all those people living in places that don't have Chicago's problem alone?

    Perhaps the focus on guns is a defense mechanism. You've got this huge problem you can't ignore. It's got causes you can't see any way to deal with, or which something prevents you from even acknowledging should be dealt with. So you focus on the guns, because you have to do SOMETHING, and are precluded from focusing on the real problem.

    But there's no reason why people living in places without whatever this X factor is, (Gangs, probably.) should humor your defense mechanism. Solve your own problems, leave us out of it. We don't have the problem, you do, so maybe you should be taking advice from us, instead of telling us what to do.

    Yes, that's a serious suggestion: People living in areas with awful crime rates should stop trying to tell people living in areas with much lower crime rates, (Practically everywhere except a few urban centers.) what to do. They should instead respectfully *ask* what they should be doing. You've got a problem, other people are not causing it. They may be able to tell you the solution, if you'll listen instead of trying to tell them what they should be doing.

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