Gun rights activists have often held up Chicago as an example of the failures of gun control. The city has historically had some of the strictest laws against gun ownership while also suffering under some of the worst crime rates in the US. In 2012, Chicago surpassed New York as America’s murder capital. However, after the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down Illinois’ ban on concealed carry in December of 2012, a concealed carry program was implemented in the state this year, finally and for the first time allowing law-abiding Chicago residents to arm themselves in public against the city’s seemingly-perpetual crime wave.
According to The Washington Times, now that citizens in Chicago can legally defend themselves, the city’s historically disastrous crime rates have begun to plummet precipitously. Police department crime statistics note that, in the first quarter of 2014, the homicide rate in Chicago has dropped to a 56-year low. In 2014 so far, burglaries are down by 20%, auto theft rates have dropped by 26%, and robberies leading to arrests are down by 20%.
The Chicago Police Department wasted no time in declaring victory and claiming credit for the drop in crime, but Illinois State Rifle Association executive director Richard Pearson told The Washington Times, “The police department hasn’t changed a single tactic — they haven’t announced a shift in policy or of course — and yet you have these incredible numbers.” He feels that the drop in crime can at least in part be attributed to the implementation of concealed carry in Illinois. Said Pearson, “It isn’t any coincidence crime rates started to go down when concealed carry was permitted. Just the idea that the criminals don’t know who’s armed and who isn’t has a deterrence effect.”
So far, Illinois has issued 68,549 concealed carry licences. 28,552 Chicago residents have requested a permit. Permit holders must pay around $600 in fees and attend 16 hours of classes on gun safety.
It is also worth noting that Washington DC, another city which once featured stricter gun control laws, experienced a dramatic drop in crime rates after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of DC residents’ gun rights in the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision. 2008’s Heller decision also legalized gun ownership in the home for Chicago residents, and the Windy City experienced a similar drop in its murder rate following that landmark case. Now that the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has struck down Illinois’ ban on concealed carry, gun rights in the state have expanded further than just the home, allowing permit carriers to defend themselves in public. Though it is too early to conclusively determine exactly what is causing the reduction in crime, the shift in policy favoring gun rights appears to correlate with a sharp drop in Chicago crime rates.