Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

When a city's gun laws get shot down

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 8:53 AM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
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
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT