Background: It is a fact that the two places in the United States with the worst rates of firearm crime are…:
- The states of the deep, deep South, with their Scots-Irish tradition of casual, clannish violence, honor killings, and so on.
- Cities with tight gun controls. Like Chicago, which is more dangerous per capita than Afghanistan these days, at least in terms of gun violence. And if Rahm Emanuel theatrically bans IEDs, five’ll get you ten you start seeing those, too.
Now, when you mention this to gun-control advocates – who are usually urbanites, frequently with much schooling (as distinct from education), and some of whom at least try to go through the motions of an informed and civil debate – many will furrow their brows and intone one or both of two things:
- “But wait! There are cities with tight gun controls, like New York and San Francisco, with low gun crime rates!”
- “Yes, cities like Chicago and Washington DC have tight gun controls and high crime rates. But the guns that are used to carry out the crime come from places with lax gun laws!”
Zip Guns, Zip Codes: Of course, just as it’s misleading to splotch crime rates across entire states – or states with significant populations, shaddap about Wyoming and the Dakotas – as it is to draw the same conclusions about politics or the economy, it’s equally as misleading to do the same with metro areas. Just as Illinois as a whole is relatively safe (with a murder rate of 5.5 per 100,000, just a little above the national rate of 4.7/100,000), the city of Chicago as whole is modestly less-than-catastrophic, with a 15.9 per 100,000 murder rate; that’s only triple the national rate, double that of Minneapolis, and five times Saint Paul’s murder rate.
Murder in Chicago is heavily concentrated in its most blighted neighborhoods, and among its most disadvantaged populations. You can walk the streets of Norwood Park or Lincoln Square in relative safety; Washington Heights or New City, less so; Chicago Lawn, still less. That’s true in most cities.
And especially true in cities like Chicago and Minneapolis and New Orleans and Baltimore and Atlanta, where you have wide swathes of disparity in income and society. And less so in cities like San Francisco and Manhattan, which have largely become gentrified and too-expensive-for-the-poor, and have managed to export their criminal element to Oakland or Newark.
Balance: To the second point? If Chicago is more dangerous because its criminals are able to get guns from suburban Illinois or and from surrounding states, why aren’t those surrounding counties and cities anywhere nearly as dangerous? A fifth of guns used in crime in Chicago come from Indiana, a state with a crime rate a point lower than Illinois and about a quarter that of Chicago. About 4% come from Wisconsin, a state with a crime rate half that of Illinois (and much of even that concentrated in Milwaukee, whose crime rate is not much better overall than Chicago, and for most of the same reasons) and less than a fifth that of Chicago.
If the guns – and the access to the guns – were the problem, then Montana, North Dakota and Mississippi should have sky-high crime rates too…
…oh, wait: while Montana (2.6/100,000) and North Dakota (1.5/100,000 in 2010) have very low murder rates, Mississippi is at 7/100,000 (with no urban areas making the top list). Not much different than Minneapolis; triple Saint Paul; half of Chicago’s murder rate, even with its Deep South pathologies fully and stereotypicallyundisturbed.
So here’s the question: if access to guns is the problem, why aren’t the places from which Chicago criminals get their guns as overrun with crime as Chicago itself is?
Comments welcome at Shot In The Dark.