Last week, Chicago's mayor, Lori Lightfoot, engaged in a Twitter war with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) over the city's ongoing gun violence problem. Monday, she published an op-ed in the Washington Post blaming pro-gun Republicans like Cruz for the city's sky-high murder rate, claiming the lenient GOP could save Chicago by instituting more stringent federal gun measures.
The social media interaction between Lightfoot and Cruz didn't go well for Lightfoot, who stepped in after the Texas Republican claimed Chicago's persistent gun problem was a perfect example of why more gun control laws don't necessarily mean less crime. Lightfoot responded by telling Cruz that 60% of illegal firearms in Chicago come from outside the state of Illinois, and warned Cruz and "coward Republicans" to "Keep our name out of your mouth."
Cruz fired back, pointing out that Chicago's prosecutors are lenient on gun offenders and that Chicago's policy to allow weapons law violators to return to the streets after posting as little as $1,000 bail leaves Chicago residents exposed to violence.
Lightfoot appeared to back off — until Monday, when she published an op-ed in the Washington Post, accusing the gun law-shy GOP of making Chicago a haven for gun violence.
The article, titled "Ted Cruz and others should stop using Chicago as a punching bag," essentially claims that lax federal gun laws allow bad guys in Chicago to buy guns without a background check, reiterates that most of the guns used in Chicago shootings come from out of state, and blames Republicans in Congress for failing to enact universal background checks and to close the "gun show loophole."
"Sixty percent of firearms owned or used illegally recovered in Chicago come from outside Illinois," she writes. "These guns don’t recognize state lines or city boundaries. Cruz said the five U.S. cities with the highest murder rates 'have had Democratic mayors for decades and aggressive gun control policies — none seems to be working." He’s making my case for me: As long as people can drive from Illinois to Indiana and purchase a personal arsenal without a background check, Chicago’s gun laws will always be as weak as those of the closest permissive state."
That state, Lightfoot says, is Indiana. But there are a few problems with her argument. For starters, trafficking guns over state lines is already illegal, as are straw purchases. Although Democrats in Chicago like to claim that offenders often buy their guns at gun shows in Indiana, where they can simply purchase weapons from other private individuals, most gun show sellers are also gun retailers who have to pass inspection and be licensed by the federal government.
And if 60% of guns come from out of state, that still means 40% of guns are coming from Illinois. And Indiana still has state-mandated background checks, and gun retailers must obey federal guidelines for all legal gun purchases. Illegal gun purchases would likely remain illegal even if the laws changed.
Lightfoot tries to use the example of a man arrested for the murder of a child in Chicago, whose weapons were purchased illegally and shipped to him from New Mexico, as an example of how the federal laws "allow" violence in Chicago to continue, but the man actually obtained his weapons illegally — he violated existing state and federal law.
The mayor goes on to invite Cruz out to Chicago to speak to people on the street — especially on the city's south and west sides — about how gun violence has impacted their communities. Oddly enough, Lightfoot didn't encourage Cruz to speak to Chicago's police, but they may hold the actual key to Chicago's ongoing violence problem.
Gun offenders in Chicago are routinely released with little or no bail, only a day or two after they're arrested. Although the guns are often confiscated, gang members and other violent individuals are quickly returned to the streets where they usually offend again. The problem has gotten so bad, local blog CWB Chicago reports, that Chicago police are launching a website to track arrested gun offenders, how long they spend in jail, and how little they're required to post for bond.
Cruz has not yet responded to Lightfoot's request.