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There’s always something more that can be done about big problems like armed violence

Monday, Oct 18, 2021

* We’ve discussed much of this already, but here’s my weekly syndicated newspaper column…

Catholic priest and Chicago community activist Michael Pfleger has now twice called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to declare a “state of emergency” over his city’s notorious gun violence problems.

The first time was this past July, when Pfleger demanded Pritzker issue a similar emergency declaration to the one announced by New York’s then-governor, Andrew Cuomo. Pfleger repeated his demand again last week after a security guard and a little girl were injured by gunfire outside of a school.

The Democrat Cuomo issued his emergency declaration about a month before he finally resigned his office in disgrace. A chorus was building against him for a variety of reasons, including numerous sexual harassment claims. His emergency declaration was seen by some at the time as a way to distract from the growing calls for his immediate ouster.

As far as the substance goes, there wasn’t much in former Gov. Cuomo’s declaration that the state of Illinois isn’t already doing.

Cuomo unilaterally increased spending on violence interruption and youth job programs, which Illinois did in its current fiscal year’s budget.

Cuomo’s declaration also created a new Office of Gun Violence Prevention, but the Illinois Legislature has already done that here.

Cuomo created a gun trafficking interdiction program to stem the flow of guns from other states, but that’s already being done here, too.

Cuomo was criticized by New York Republicans for not also rolling back some of the state’s criminal justice reforms passed two years earlier, but Illinois’ reforms haven’t even taken effect yet, so they aren’t contributing to the problem, no matter what some ill-informed blowhards might be saying.

Look, the hard truth is, if there was a legal magic wand that could be waved to immediately solve the nation’s violence problem, it would’ve already been waved years ago.

Even so, the Chicago news media has long been notorious for amplifying mostly empty but very loud calls to “Do something right now!” about violence. Mayors Richard M. Daley, Rahm Emanuel and now Lori Lightfoot have all been pilloried for failing to adequately address the city’s violence problems. Remember when another disgraced governor, Rod Blagojevich, threatened to call out the Illinois National Guard over Mayor Daley’s opposition? Blago got a ton of news media coverage for that, which, like Cuomos, is what his threat was really all about.

One thing deserving attention is a better understanding of what’s actually going on.

For instance, we are told over and over that gun violence in our cities is a gang problem. But a study conducted this year of Chicago police incident data for 34,000 shootings during the past decade found that detectives “labeled fewer than three in 10 of them gang-related,” according to The Trace. In 2020, the city’s police department claimed 43 percent of fatal shootings were gang-related, down from 70 percent five years earlier. But that police data is probably unreliable, so we don’t really know.

There are surely other things that can be done which are working elsewhere. And the current violent surge began with the COVID-19 pandemic, so it might eventually subside on its own once (hopefully) the pandemic finally recedes.

Some things take time. You can’t snap your fingers and bring back factories to the inner cities, or get rid of guns, or force people to trust the police and stop fearing neighborhood killers.

In the meantime, it wouldn’t kill the governor to be more aggressive in informing the public of what the state has done so far and what can be done in the future. He often tries to distance himself from local crime problems to the point where he comes off as uninvolved or uninterested.

Pritzker has done some good things, including vastly expanding violence interruption and prevention programs, but even then the money spent to treat violence like a public health issue is a relative drop in the bucket of what’s likely needed.

More funding for mental health programs is a no-brainer. This country’s track record on dealing with mentally ill people is beyond shameful. Schools should have counselors. Neighborhoods should have clinics with easy access. Police, nurses, doctors and so many others should get all the help they need so they can better deal with the devastation they engage with every day.

This stuff isn’t free, obviously. Magic wands are free, but they don’t exist. Make the case for more spending on real solutions and move the state forward.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Policy Counts - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 11:15 am:

    A lot more people with a lot more guns in 2021 than 2014 seems to be at the heart of the problem.

    Can we release data on gun ownership by zip?

  2. - Ares - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 11:16 am:

    The network news bears a lot of blame for overhyping the problems. If you watched NBC Nightly News Friday, you would think that half there CPD was walking out on Saturday, which did not happen. You need police, you need capable police recruits, and you need funding. The US Atty’s Office needs resources to prosecute hard-core cases, such that a convicted felon (convicted for a crime of violence) knows that they will be prosecuted, and risk Federal prison, if they are caught with a gun on their person.

  3. - DuPage - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 11:25 am:

    1. Lock up felons carrying guns.

    2. Upgrade the ankle monitors to the new GPS ones that work better.

  4. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 11:27 am:

    Pritzker did sign more funding for mental health.
    As far at witness protection of 2013 goes, that is only for gang violence. How about one for domestic violence Speaker Welch?

  5. - Nottapundit - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 11:38 am:

    - Can we release data on gun ownership by zip? -

    Not sure how that helps, guns aren’t registered, and not everyone with a foid owns one. They aren’t the problem either way.

  6. - Kikio Day - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 11:38 am:

    Public safety is a three legged stool. We need all the legs to not fall to the ground.
    One leg is society’s revenge the system we have now: laws, police, courts and jails and prisons. This is a way to persuade rational people to not do crime. We have pumped the majority of public money into this leg.

    The next leg is mental health. Irrational people commit crimes and they do them for irrational reasons. The system of society’s revenge won’t reach them. So we need to build up this leg of the stool. The system of violence interrupters is one way to build up this leg.

    The third stool is victim resistance. Some crimes are crimes of opportunity. Strengthening people to not be victims can help. Do you know that there is a correlation between people needing mental help and being crime victims? Vulnerable people are also vulnerable to crime. The elderly the homeless, newly emancipated foster children, mentally ill, all are more vulnerable to the acts of criminals and could help with services to increase their resistance.
    More mental health investment and providers can build up the weakest two legs of the stool.

  7. - CJA - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 11:42 am:

    ==Can we release data on gun ownership by zip?==

    The flaw to this question is assuming that the people causing the illegal shootings are those who acquired their firearms legally and would show up on whatever kind of ownership report that would be generated.

  8. - GW - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 11:56 am:

    Back in 1909 a good union job paid 30 cents an hour. So a 50 hour a week job resulted in $15 in wages. A bottle of whiskey was $2 or more than 13% or about one seventh of their wage. Now with a $15 an hour rate and a 40 hour week provides $600. So workers make 40 times more money. Is a bottle of whiskey $80 today? No, more like $15.

    The 30 cent an hour wage earner in 1909 made $750 a year. This is where the old long standing $1,000 standard deduction for income taxes came from. We are subsidizing liquor sales with income tax revenue. We should collect $20 on each bottle sold and end alcohol sales between 11pm and 11am if you want to begin to reduce violence in our society.

  9. - Donnie Elgin - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 11:59 am:

    Can we release data on gun ownership by zip?

    “CHICAGO CRIME GUN PROFILE The vast majority of crime guns were handguns possessed by adults who were not the original purchaser of the firearm, and if arrested, were charged with illegal firearm possession”
    Source 2017 gun trace report

    FBI data also shows the problem is not the amount of legally owned guns in a region - since most gun crimes are committed by folks illegally in possession of those weapons…
    “An estimated 287,400 prisoners had possessed a firearm during their offense. Among these, more than half (56%) had either stolen it (6%), found it at the scene of the crime (7%), or obtained it off the street or from the underground market (43%). Most of the remainder (25%) had obtained it from a family member or friend, or as a gift. Seven percent had purchased it under their own name from a licensed firearm dealer.

    Source FBI: Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes: Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016

  10. - GW - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 12:04 pm:

    Dear Solution, Wally World of course.

  11. - Beecher - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 12:17 pm:

    Good article and good points. Two suggestions. Pritzker could work toward a state police academy for all potential candidates. An academy based on professionalism integrity and community understanding rather than initiation into the brotherhood. Pritzker could also work to place emphasis on empowering girls and young women of color in the public schools

  12. - Dotnonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 12:21 pm:

    Addressing the cause of the violence as the failure of Capitalism will never happen…I guess.

  13. - Sling - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 12:46 pm:

    == The flaw to this question is assuming that the people causing the illegal shootings are those who acquired their firearms legally and would show up on whatever kind of ownership report that would be generated.==
    Oh they aren’t the shooters. They are the people who “accidentally” let their guns go missing.

  14. - Lt Guv - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 1:10 pm:

    Beecher, there are 2 police academies in IL that all recruits attend one or the other, as I understand it. One is operated by ISP and the other is by the Univ. of IL.

  15. - Just a citizen - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 1:10 pm:

    Move city hall to the worst area. The politicians will find solutions a lot faster

  16. - Chicagonk - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 1:16 pm:

    Prison sentences do not need to be long or even necessary at all for some crimes, but there does need to be accountability and restitution. Pritzker and Cook County need to be creative on how to achieve this. And then free up the criminal courts to focus on violent crime (and fund crime fighting strategies and police technology - not just violence interdiction).

  17. - snowman - Monday, Oct 18, 21 @ 2:26 pm:

    Talk about money for programs is a start and has been in the works recently. But I will like to see some type of progress report of sort as to which programs are improving the situation and working vs which programs being finance are not working. Is the money being used efficiently or being wasted. Get the money to programs that are working and making the improvements. Some great ideas are expressed when organizations get the grants but any follow up?

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