Thursday, June 16, 2011

City gun registration rates, zip by zip

Posted By on 06.16.11 at 06:14 PM

Chicago has the most restrictive gun law in the country—but what is it actually accomplishing?

The law is rarely enforced because police and prosecutors find state and federal laws more useful. And as I write in a story for this week's paper, it's rarely complied with either. Even the police department has yet to follow through on a key mandate, a registry that was supposed to help law enforcement and the public keep track of gun offenders.

And needless to say, the shootings in Chicago haven't stopped, as Sun-Times reporter Kim Janssen saw firsthand this week.

The gun law was put into place by former Mayor Daley, a true gun hater who also used the law as a political shield and tolerated no dissent on the issue. He may be gone, but most city officials are still nervous to talk frankly about it.

Aides to Rahm Emanuel skipped my questions about the law. Aldermen I talked with either declined to comment or said the city needs to do more to "promote" it.

Officials with the nonprofit Joyce Foundation didn't respond to my request for a comment either. The foundation subsidized the city's legal expenses during the lengthy defense of its 28-year-old handgun ban, which was eventually knocked down by the U.S. Supreme Court, prompting the hasty passage of the new gun law. A couple of former foundation officials are now serving in top posts in the Emanuel administration, including Michelle Boone, the cultural affairs commissioner, and Norah Daley Conroy, the former mayor's daughter, who now chairs the city's cultural affairs advisory board.

Still, more than 3,000 people have registered with the city, and officials with the police department, to their credit, agreed to share the totals with me, broken down by zip code. I then calculated per population rates based on 2000 census data (the most recent available.) You can view the spreadsheet here. A map of the zips accompanies my story about the numbers.

Twenty-third Ward alderman Michael Zalewski says he isn't surprised that people who live in his ward have gone through the registration process at rates much higher than the rest of the city. Most of the ward is in the 60638 zip code area, which led the city in the total number of gun permit applicants from last July to this May.

“There are a number of people out here who really believe they should have the right to keep a gun in their home to protect themselves,” Zalewski says. “The truth is that a lot of people were a little fearful that the Obama administration was going to try to take their guns away. If they register this thing, they’re following the law and doing this the right way.”

In other words, the ward has a fair number of conservative folks. But Obama wasn't the only pol whose position on gun control irked ward residents. "Of the things people said they disagreed with Daley on, that was really a big one," Zalewski says. "Out here, they’re like, don’t touch my weapon."

For more on the subject, please check out my interview with Mike Stephen on Outside the Loop radio. I also talked about guns, police superintendent Garry McCarthy, and other issues of the day with Kate Grossman of the Sun-Times and host Ken Davis on Chicago Newsroom.

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