Thanks for the Insight, Neil | Bleader

Thanks for the Insight, Neil



I must be doing something right when Mayor Daley and Neil Steinberg disparage my work in the same week.

In his column this morning Steinberg writes that the gun-ban question I asked Mayor Daley last week was "dumb."

Steinberg is one of the most entertaining misanthropes in town, not to mention a true genius at self-promotion. But his reasoning, at least on the matter of questioning the mayor, is highly suspect.

Steinberg suggests that the causes of urban crime are so complex that it's foolishly simplistic to boil the debate down to "gun control—yes or no?" I couldn't agree more. That's why Mayor Daley's unswerving position that our gun ban has curbed violence sounds more like crafty politics than like sound policy. It's also why I believe the ban deserves to be scrutinized, at the very least.

Steinberg also writes, "If Chicago's gun ban didn't get the credit when the city's murder rate was sliding from 943 homicides in 1992 to 442 in 2007, why blame it now that crime has ticked back up, slightly?" Perhaps because the 1992 total of 943 had climbed from 1985's total of 666—during the time the gun ban was in effect.

Incidentally, the number jumped to 740 in 1986. "Police officials could not give a precise reason for the increase," a Tribune story reported in December 1986, "but some pointed to the large number of guns on the streets."

And while we're talking about facts, here's one that's worth noting: despite Steinberg's implication, I never argued that the gun ban was responsible for the recent upticks in crime. In fact, I'm skeptical that easing restrictions on guns will do anything but lead to more violence. But since it's undeniable that people keep getting weapons and using them in Chicago, I think it's important to continue to get the mayor on record discussing how he thinks the gun ban has helped.

There's another issue that Steinberg doesn't address at all. The city has spent thousands and thousands of dollars defending its gun laws in court, and the tab is still running. At the press conference last week where this began, Mayor Daley listed other anti-gun initiatives the city may undertake if our ban is nullified—all of them costly. Steinberg may not have to worry about how the mayor spends taxpayer money since he doesn't live in Chicago, but lots of my readers do, and I'm dumb enough to think I'm writing for them.