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Chicago uses gun possession charges to pad jail cells

By Rhonda Mary 

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.

“Get the guns off the streets” has echoed through gun control circles, but a recent study shows it may be a vapid slogan. As gun possession charges increase rapidly in Chicago, violent crime continues to soar while few murders are solved. 

City officials justify their hyperfocus on the possession of firearms as a means to reduce violence, but arguably violence has only increased. Why are so many officials willing to undermine the human rights of Chicagoans with no return? Gun possession arrests have doubled, shootings have increased, yet most homicides have remained unsolved. 

The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system, did a year-long investigation showing how violent crime has continued to rise as more guns were confiscated. According to their report, 

“The Marshall Project read nearly 300 arrest reports to understand the tactics police use to find guns and compiled decades of police data showing a history of discriminatory gun enforcement, conducting more than 100 interviews with people navigating gun cases, researchers, attorneys, and community residents. Key findings: 

  • From 2010 to 2022, the police made more than 38,000 arrests for illegal gun possession. The number of these arrests — almost always a felony in Illinois — doubled during this time. 
  • Illegal possession is the most serious offense in most of the cases analyzed, the charges often bearing names that imply violence, like “unlawful use of a weapon.” 
  • Research by Loyola University Chicago found that most people convicted in Illinois for these charges don’t go on to commit a violent crime and that people who already committed violent crimes are more likely to do so again. 
  • Although Black people comprise less than a third of the city’s population, they were more than 8 in 10 of those arrested for guns in the period reviewed. The majority were men in their 20s and 30s. 
  • Even if not sentenced to prison, those we interviewed faced criminal records, probation, job loss, legal fees, and car impoundments. 
  • Weapons arrests, which include illegal gun possession, are at their highest since the mid-1990s.” 

Nonviolent individuals are being arrested and charged with felonies for simply possessing a firearm without a license. Ironically, Chicago is one of the leading gun control cities in the nation, which makes it the toughest for those seeking to arm themselves legally. The politics of Chicago have also discouraged safe and responsible gun ownership by creating policies that have resulted in no public, live-fire gun ranges being located in the city. If residents want to train and learn more about gun ownership from reputable sources, they must travel outside of city limits. How does this fare for working-class citizens that are working hard to make ends meet, who now must find the additional time and resources to train and exercise their constitutional rights? 

Research shows the majority of those charged with gun possession don’t have past violent convictions or go on to commit violent crimes. The overwhelming majority of these violent crimes are being committed by repeat offenders; while everyday citizens are left to deal with the costly fallout. The potential consequences of a gun possession charge are long-lasting and can include prison time, probation, legal fees, and lost wages.  

This is also one example of how gun control exposes racial biases. The vast majority of these gun possession arrests involve young black men (with 8 out of 10 gun possession arrests being black people) while only making up one-third of the city’s population. The racist assumption that every young black man carrying a firearm has criminal intent has done more harm than good and puts many young men’s lives in jeopardy, while directly undermining their right to bear arms. By stripping citizens of their rights, you make it harder for them to protect themselves against violent recidivists. Instead of Chicago’s city officials updating its crime prevention strategy and targeting repeat offenders, it has chosen to use bias to cast doubt onto every person possessing a firearm.  

Inadequate gun control measures, such as these gun possession charges, are just one example of how anti-gun politicians in deep blue cities double down on measures that are not only insufficient but have opposite consequences. I don’t know if I can call them “unintended consequences” because some economists, like gun rights advocate John R. Lott Jr., argue that more guns equal less crime. 

Similarly, we’ve seen inverse consequences of policies like stop and frisk or the war on drugs that have come with a ton of human rights abuses and aided in mass incarceration. These policies are enforced by city officials that think it’s better to do anything than the right thing, including violating the Constitution. They continue to throw things at the wall, hoping something sticks, but policies like gun possession charges diminish the relationship between city officials and citizens, strip people of their rights, and perpetuate the cycle of violence.  

Every day Chicagoans who want to feel safe and protect their families are put at a disadvantage under these circumstances. The ability to defend your life should not equate to a prison sentence. But city officials refuse to see nonviolent gun owners as people with fear and hesitancy that stems from their failed policies and inability to make the city safer. Instead, they see every person that wants the ability to protect their life with guns as a violent threat, and it’s just untrue. 

Gun possession charges now make up 10% of all arrests, while there’s been no decrease in violent crime. If Chicago is to become safer, it can only happen through peaceful cooperation and respect for nonviolent citizens observing their second amendment rights. This is directly in opposition to what we see now, where citizens may fall victim to the failures of the state and its unsolved homicides; if not used as another body to pad its jail cells. 

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Rhonda Mary

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