Why Does Trump Keep Saying Chicago Has ‘Strongest’ Gun Laws?

Even when he’s halfway around the world, President Donald Trump has no qualms about discussing Chicago’s gun laws.

In the wake of another mass shooting Sunday that claimed the lives of 26 parishioners at a Texas church, Trump was reportedly pressed on increasing gun control during a press conference Tuesday in South Korea. His response?

“You look at the city with the strongest gun laws in our nation, is Chicago,” he said. “And Chicago is a disaster.”

This is hardly the first time the president has brought up Chicago when discussing gun legislation. He did it last year on the campaign trail. His surrogates have said it at press briefings.

But as often as it’s used, it’s a claim fact checkers have thoroughly debunked time and again.

It’s not that Chicago doesn’t have tough gun laws – it does – but they aren’t the strictest in the nation. That claim may have held water as recently as a decade ago when the Windy City’s ban on handguns was still in effect. But that was struck down in 2010.

And local laws on open carry (not allowed) and concealed carry (allowed, with caveats) are right in line with other major cities like New York and Los Angeles. So where does this idea that Chicago has the strictest gun regulations come from?

“Most big cities have had very tough gun laws,” said Alexandra Filindra, an associate professor of political science and psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “I don’t think that the president is using Chicago in a realistic way. I think it is a rhetorical device to convey a message and it is an implicitly racial message. So no, I don’t think Chicago can be singled out as (having) the strictest gun laws in the country.”

In going beyond gun legislation, Trump and his administration have painted Chicago violence as a moral failure.

Likewise, Illinois has restrictive gun laws. It utilizes waiting periods and requires background checks for buyers and makes sure gun owners obtain licenses. And unless you’re a member of law enforcement or the military (or in some cases, a gun dealer) you cannot possess, carry or sell fully automatic weapons.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave the state a B-plus rating on its 2016 scorecard, saying it has the eighth-toughest gun laws behind only California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

As for the states directly surrounding Illinois? Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin received Cs, Indiana got a D, and Missouri and Kentucky got Fs. Perhaps that explains why 60 percent of the nearly 15,000 guns confiscated by Chicago police from 2013-2016 originated outside the state.

(The Trace)(The Trace)

Chicago undoubtedly saw a sharp spike in gun violence throughout 2016. But the city’s five-year homicide rate from 2010 to 2015 wasn’t even in the top 10 among U.S. cities, according to data from nonprofit news organization The Trace.

Even with that spike, Chicago still did not have one of the five highest murder rates last year.

“The issue of gun violence, it requires a national approach,” Filindra said. “It can’t be done at the state level because people can just drive half an hour across to Indiana and get whatever gun they want.

“What are we going to do, put up a wall around Illinois? You can’t.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMastersonmmasterson@wttw.com | (773) 509-5431


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