Is It Gun Control or Crime Reduction?

Prompted by mass shootings, Obama's reforms could take on new meaning for cities beset by violence.

At a January 2013 press conference, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls for stricter gun regulations. (Getty Images)

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Last year, there were 506 gun deaths. The murders were mainly gang-related, the victims principally black and brown. Twenty-four of those shot to death were Chicago public school students.

Like Obama’s inheritance of President George W. Bush’s deficit, Emanuel has inherited Mayor Richard M. Daley’s violence problem. Ironically, although Obama’s former senior adviser has not been able to solve his city’s gun-violence problem, he’s freely dispensing advice on how the nation can solve its gun-violence problem.

It’s not quite as vain as it sounds. Back in the mid ’90s when Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office, Emanuel was involved with the passage of the 1994 assault-weapons ban.

Speaking on national gun control at the Center for American Progress on Tuesday, Emanuel said the most effective way for Democrats to push effective gun reform through Congress is to avoid selling it as gun control but rather as a crime-reduction law.

It may be the president’s Hail Mary in getting assault rifles and large magazine clips outlawed, but it’s hard to imagine the current mayor of Chicago quarterbacking the play.

Mayor Emanuel is also hoping to strike a financial blow to the city’s gun owners and the nation’s gun manufacturers. Thursday he announced a plan to ask all those controlling the city’s pension funds to divest any holdings they have with companies that make guns. And last week, Emanuel proposed a statewide $65 per handgun tax to help enable Chicago police to track down guns involved in crimes.

Chicago’s deaths by firearms last year were nearly three times greater than the gun deaths in Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and Wales, France, Zambia and Greece — combined. In the case of the United States, the figure is exponentially more: The American murder rate is roughly 15 times that of other wealthy countries, which have much tougher laws controlling private ownership of guns.    

And yet, two days before Obama’s announcement, Steve Stockman, formerly defeated, now newly-elected right-wing Republican congressman from Texas, threatened to file articles of impeachment if the president used executive orders in an attempt to prevent future massacres like that in Newtown, Conn., as well as the sort of violence that plagues the cities such as Chicago.

Eight days after the Newtown mass shooting, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, spoke, recommending that the best way to solve our nation’s gun problems was more guns, that we should arm teachers and principals. As if the educators were starring in a Clint Eastwood flick in which a pistol-packing principal could take out a mass shooter wearing body armor and carrying an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine with a single, sure shot to the head. LaPierre also pointed out who was really at fault for our nation’s epidemic of mass shootings: computer games.