This past Wednesday President Obama outlined a broad and complex series of initiatives to curb gun violence in America. Many steps he outlined will require new legislation, but a large number of measures he instituted through Executive Order. By and large I agree with his "Executive Order" measures. However, new legislation is unlikely to pass.
There are two very unfortunate side effects of the Obama initiatives. First his heavy handed and combative approach further deepened the divide in our society over this contentious issue. Obama further inflamed tempers and increased friction in our already over-heated political atmosphere. Lats face it, President Obama does not want to be, and is incapable of being, a conciliator.
Second, every step President Obama outlined, even if fully implemented would not curb gun violence one tiny bit. It likely would make it worse.
Gun violence can be curbed. In fact it can be nearly eliminated. But not by making criminals out of America's most law abiding citizens. Obama's laws are all designed to restrict and restrain good honest people, they do nothing to affect the criminals.
Many cities and communities across America are taking real action to reduce gun violence. None are doing it by further restricting guns. One example is tremendous success is Aurora, Illinois. Aurora is Illinois second largest city, is near Chicago, and was one of the deadliest cities in America just a few short years ago.
Just eight years ago the murder rate in Aurora exceeded the rate in Chicago. Over the last eight years gun violence and murders in Chicago has gotten worse, while in 2012 Aurora did not have one single homicide! Not one!! And there were only 61 incidents of gun violence, an 80% reduction from the peak in 1996.
How did Aurora do it while simultaneously having a population explosion? It took a multifaceted d approach to solving the underlying issues of poverty, gang violence, education and opportunity.
Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas said there are no quick fixes for reducing the number of murders in any community.
Thomas said that a key factor was getting help from the community, getting kids into after-school programs and the Junior ROTC.
The police department also tried to keep young people from joining gangs through it’s “Knock and Talk” program.
If the police caught wind that a certain young person was trying to become involved in a gang, police would talk to the young person’s parent and inform them of the signs to watch for from their son or daughter.
Rev. Pat McManus, pastor at Kingdom Impact Center, is one of several aurora ministers who held prayer vigils at every murder scene in past years, encouraging neighbors to fight back.
“We’re all working together, doing the same thing, having the same focus to truly see the city turn,” he said.
Thomas said Aurora started focusing in 2005 on the worst of the repeat criminals and getting them locked up in federal prisons.
“If you look at about 2005 to 2007, we took about 150 high-ranking gang members, shooters off the streets in Aurora, with help from federal partnerships with the ATF and FBI. I think that was a big contributor,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the reduction in the murder rate is the culmination of a long team effort, and the results have been dramatic. Thomas credited a crackdown on gangs, assisted by federal authorities.
Thomas also credited use of the CompStat system, which uses crime statistics to focus police resources on hot spots of activity.
East Aurora was once the center of much of the city’s gang and drug violence, but in the neighborhoods, and the lively businesses, residents feel the change.
“I believe my kids are in less danger,” one woman said.
“I feel a lot safer,” one man said.
“I think it should get out, you know? Come live in Aurora, It’s a safe place,” another man said.
Certainly the growth Aurora has experienced has helped by opening up job opportunities.
One thing Chicago's overly tough gun laws have proved beyond any doubt: Gun Control DOES NOT reduce gun violence. Social, civic and law enforcement solutions like those implemented in Aurora do.
The following resources were helpful in preparing this blog entry. In some cases quotes for city officials and residents were taken from these news stories and I am indebted to the reporters who did the real work in researching this information:
CBS 2 Chicago
Democratic Underground dot com
HUFF POST Chicago
City of Aurora Website