Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

When a city's gun laws get shot down

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
Last Christmas, a church in Chicago's South Side posted photos of some of the people recently killed by gunfire in Chicago.
Last Christmas, a church in Chicago's South Side posted photos of some of the people recently killed by gunfire in Chicago.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: Chicago mayor must figure out how and where guns can be sold in the city
  • LZ: Chicago banned gun sales but still had a lot of murders; ban was ruled unconstitutional
  • LZ: Still, guns used in crimes are largely bought outside the city and in other states

Editor's note: LZ Granderson writes a weekly column for CNN.com. A senior writer for ESPN and lecturer at Northwestern University, the former Hechinger Institute fellow has had his commentary recognized by the Online News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- Kevin Baker, a student at Harold Washington College in Chicago, and his cousin, a senior at DePaul University, were walking home from school one day last week in the city's Chicago Lawn neighborhood.

They were approached by two men, one carrying a gun. The men demanded the students hand over their cell phones.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

They complied.

And as the two men began to walk away, the gunman turned around, yelled something at Baker, and then shot him in the head. The 19-year-old, who wanted to be an architect and was known as "College Kid" in his neighborhood, died hours later.

His senseless killing happened just a few days after a federal judge gave Mayor Rahm Emanuel six months to figure out how and where guns can be sold in the city. The court had ruled Chicago's ban on gun sales was unconstitutional.

This scenario tells you all you need to know about the gun control conversation in 2014. There isn't one.

Police investigate a murder of a 68-year-old man in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago on December 15, 2013.
Police investigate a murder of a 68-year-old man in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago on December 15, 2013.
Blood is frozen in snow in Chicago\'s Logan Square neighborhood after a 68-year-old man was shot to death.
Blood is frozen in snow in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood after a 68-year-old man was shot to death.

And the optics of tragedies like Baker's is part of the reason why.

Chicago had a ban on guns sales in 2012, but was still the country's murder capital in numbers of killings, if not in rate -- although the number dropped in 2013. So how can you prove a ban works to keep people safe? That's not me asking the question. That rationale was part of U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang's ruling on the ban: "The evidence does not support that the complete ban sufficiently furthers the purposes the ordinance tries to serve."

Now there is an obvious flaw in Chang's logic:

Of the 1,375 guns used in crimes between 2008 to 2012, one in five was legally purchased from one shop about 20 miles outside of the city. Also, a Chicago Police Department report found that 30% of the 17,230 guns recovered between January 1, 2008, and March 31, 2012, were bought in Cook County, where Chicago is located. Many more were bought elsewhere in Illinois. And nearly 60% of those guns were bought outside Illinois, in states with weaker gun laws, such as Indiana and Mississippi.

The guns aren't always legally purchased by individuals with clean records and then illegally sold to criminals. Sometimes the gun shops are burglarized. In 2012 thieves broke into a store in a northwest suburb using a sledgehammer and took 200 guns. That year, 501 people were shot to death in Chicago.

LZ Granderson says Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces a dilemma: Nobody wants gun stores in their neighborhoods.\n
LZ Granderson says Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces a dilemma: Nobody wants gun stores in their neighborhoods.

It is disingenuous for gun rights advocates to dismiss the effectiveness of a city's gun ban without acknowledging that guns are coming into the city from other areas, including the suburbs, making it easy for criminals to game the system. But the onus is still on pro gun-control politicians -- like Emanuel, like San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- to make an airtight case against what many see as infringement on the Second Amendment.

And fair or not, people being shot and killed in cities with tough gun laws on the books does not help their case.

In 1976, Washington essentially outlawed private ownership of new handguns and in 2007, nearly 80% of the city's murders were committed with guns. The following year, the Supreme Court ruled the ban was unconstitutional.

Chang's ruling is just the latest blow delivered to Chicago's gun laws, considered by many to be the strictest in the nation.

In 2010, the Supreme Court struck down the city's 28-year ban on handguns. In response to that decision, the city required an hour of range training for gun ownership and then banned gun ranges. That was ruled unconstitutional in 2012. So now the city has gun ranges, but the guidelines are tough -- in industrial areas, at least 1,000 feet away from schools, churches, playgrounds and day care centers plus noise restrictions.

As you would expect, gun rights advocates say the rules are too tight and are being challenged in court.

After Chang's ruling, the mayor said he would write the restrictive ordinances in "a thoughtful, strategic way, that doesn't undermine what we're trying to do in bringing a level of safety and security to the people of the city of Chicago."

But whatever ordinances he comes up with have to be reasonable, otherwise the city is back in court.

Groups, like the National Rifle Association, keep suing.

Innocent people, like Baker, keep dying.

To complicate matters, now Emanuel -- the man known as "Mayor 1%" for his tendency to spend more time with deep pocket types than community organizers -- is going to have to survey the city's 77 communities and decide in which parts of the city, gun businesses can set up shop

Neighborhoods in the west and south -- like the one Baker was murdered in -- tend to be lower income, crime-ridden and predominantly minority areas. And black support for the mayor is shrinking. Neighborhoods in the north -- where many of his six-figure salary donors live -- have lower crime, higher wealth and are predominantly white.

Just when he thought keeping residents safe was hard enough now -- because gun shops will draw the attention of criminals -- he has to decide which ones may potentially become less so.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 19, 2014 -- Updated 1710 GMT (0110 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT