Wealth­ier whites get 90 per­cent of con­cealed carry per­mits in Illi­nois

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY KELLY RID­DELL

In Chicago’s South Side ear­lier this month, a 16-year-old boy was shot dead, the sev­enth per­son killed this year in the West Garfield Park neigh­bor­hood.

The boy was able to give his name and re­port­edly pleaded with the re­spond­ing po­lice of­fi­cers, “Please don’t let me die.”

If you live in 60624, the ZIP code where the shoot­ing took place, you don’t ex­pect your streets to be safe. In the last 30 days, that neigh­bor­hood has recorded more homi­cides, rob­beries, as­saults, thefts and nar­cotics charges com­bined than any other ZIP code in Cook County when mea­sured on a per capita ba­sis. Its pop­u­la­tion is 98 per­cent black and av­er­ages a me­dian in­come just above the poverty line.

It also is one of the ZIP codes that reg­is­ters the fewest ac­tive con­cealed carry firearms per­mits per capita in the county, ac­cord­ing to con­cealed carry num­bers ob­tained un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act by The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Ditto for the crime-rid­den neigh­bor­hoods of En­gle­wood and West En­gle­wood. Com­bined with West Garfield Park, out of their 114,933 to­tal res­i­dents, only 193 con­cealed carry li­censes have been is­sued — less than 0.17 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

It’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent story in af­flu­ent Pa­los Park, lo­cated in south­west­ern Cook County. The 60464 ZIP code boasts a neg­li­gi­ble crime rate: Only one homi­cide has been com­mit­ted in 10 years, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent state po­lice data. Ninety-six per­cent of its res­i­dents are white, earn­ing an av­er­age in­come of $121,000.

It also has the most con­cealed carry li­censes in Cook County this year, with 1.24 per­cent of its res­i­dents au­tho­rized to carry a gun.

The majority of Illi­nois’ 73,714 ac­tive con­cealed carry li­censes — 90 per­cent — have been is­sued to white peo­ple, de­mo­graphic data shows. Only eight per­cent of African-Americans have se­cured li­censes, ac­cord­ing to the FOIA in­for­ma­tion.

Within Cook County, the top five con­cealed carry ZIP codes per capita are all pre­dom­i­nately white, mid­dle class and are in ar­eas that have low crime rates. How­ever, the most vi­o­lent neigh­bor­hoods within the county — all of which are on the South Side of Chicago — are pre­dom­i­nately black, where res­i­dents earn less than $48,000 an­nu­ally and hold the fewest con­cealed carry li­censes as a per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion.

If the same data trends oc­curred in bank­ing and in­surance, there might be out­cries of “redlin­ing,” denying a group of peo­ple ac­cess to goods or ser­vices be­cause of the color of their skin or in­come lev­els. But there’s lit­tle pub­lic con­cern ex­pressed so far about the pos­si­bil­ity that poor blacks are be­ing dis­en­fran­chised from the right to carry a con­cealed weapon.

“You re­ally need to ask whether or not politi­cians are con­sciously try­ing to dis­arm cer­tain groups of peo­ple,” said John Lott, a Sec­ond Amend­ment ex­pert and pres­i­dent of the Crime Preven­tion Cen­ter. “Why do they want a law that pri­mar­ily dis­arms blacks and gives guns to only well-to-do whites? Don’t they think it should be equal for ev­ery­one to pro­tect their lives?”

Illi­nois res­i­dents say the dis­pro­por­tion­ate statis­tics all boil down to cost. Of right-to-carry states, Illi­nois has the high­est reg­is­tra­tion and train­ing fee, cost­ing an ap­pli­cant about $650 on av­er­age for fin­ger­print­ing, taxes and lo­gis­tics — ex­clud­ing the price of the gun.

“In th­ese gangbang neigh­bor­hoods, peo­ple can’t af­ford the li­cense. They’re mak­ing choices be­tween food and medicine, and they can’t even guar­an­tee they’ll get even that,” said Shawn Gow­der, 49, who lives in Chicago’s Auburn Gre­sham neigh­bor­hood on the South Side, where two homi­cides have taken place in the last 30 days. “We need to arm our­selves and pro­tect our­selves from th­ese gang­bangers, but we just can’t af­ford to do it.”

Illi­nois also has the long­est train­ing re­quire­ments of right-to-carry states, re­quir­ing po­ten­tial li­censees to take a 16-hour course that in­cludes range time. There are no gun ranges within the city of Chicago, and car­ry­ing an un­li­censed gun on pub­lic trans­porta­tion is a crime.

“There are a lot of sys­tem­atic and eco­nomic bar­ri­ers that make it dif­fi­cult for South Side of Chicago res­i­dents, many of whom are African-Amer­i­can, to ob­tain con­cealed carry per­mits,” said George Mitchell, pres­i­dent of the NAACP Illi­nois State Con­fer­ence. “Some of the bar­ri­ers in­clude the high costs, time com­mit­ment, bu­reau­cracy and the com­mu­nity’s dis­trust of the po­lice.”

Mr. Gow­der is one of Auburn’s 292 res­i­dents who saved money to get a con­cealed carry per­mit as soon as the state be­gan pro­cess­ing re­quests this Jan­uary. As a U.S. veteran, Mr. Gow­der val­ues his right to carry but says the cost of ob­tain­ing a li­cense in Chicago has pro­hib­ited his mother and girl­friend from do­ing the same, which he be­lieves is vi­tal to their safety.

The ACLU de­clined to com­ment for this story.

When Colorado passed its gun con­trol law, there was an amend­ment that looked at ex­empt­ing peo­ple be­low the poverty level from hav­ing to pay trans­fer fees to help make the cost of car­ry­ing a lit­tle more eq­ui­table, Mr. Lott said. It was unan­i­mously voted down, he said. De­nials with­out ex­pla­na­tion

In ad­di­tion to the high price tag, Mr. Gow­der at­tributes an un­in­formed pub­lic for the dis­par­ity in Cook County own­er­ship. When a U.S. court struck down Illi­nois’ ban on con­cealed carry last year, most of his friends didn’t follow the news, and now they don’t know it’s le­gal for them to own and carry a firearm.

“It’s one of the best-kept se­crets in the state. Chicago’s politi­cians aren’t even in­form­ing us this is an op­tion,” said Mr. Gow­der. “It’s peo­ple like me get­ting out the word. As soon as the crim­i­nals know more of us are armed, the crime rates will drop.”

Mr. Gow­der, who is an African-Amer­i­can, asked Al­der­man Latasha R. Thomas to hold a precinct meet­ing to ed­u­cate the pop­u­la­tion on their right to carry. She de­clined. Ms. Thomas didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment from The Times.

Ms. Thomas’ re­luc­tance is not sur­pris­ing. Chicago politi­cians have long been against con­cealed carry, be­ing of the mind­set that more guns leads to more vi­o­lence, no mat­ter who is pack­ing. And with Chicago be­ing dubbed the “mur­der cap­i­tal” last fall after it had more homi­cides than any other U.S. city in the FBI’s 2012 Crime Statis­tics re­lease, politi­cians are even more sen­si­tive to the is­sue.

When Illi­nois be­came the fi­nal state to al­low its cit­i­zens to ap­ply for con­cealed carry, it ap­plied a loop­hole that al­lows lo­cal law en­force­ment to deny per­mits for any rea­son. The Cook County Sher­iff’s of­fice has said it would like to ob­ject to as many con­cealed carry ap­pli­cants as it can worry about.

The county’s ob­jec­tions are then passed on to a seven-per­son state re­view board, which de­lays the process and can deny the li­cense. So far the state board has de­nied more than 800 li­censes with­out any ex­pla­na­tion. The de­nials have prompted almost 200 Illi­noisans to file law­suits against the state po­lice to try to get jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.

“The Cook County sher­iff, if you ever had any­thing on your record ever, he will re­quest a de­nial,” said Richard Pear­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Illi­nois State Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion. “We have some guys get­ting de­nied for hav­ing a DWI, hav­ing to go to a few hours of re­hab as part of their charge, and then hav­ing the sher­iff come back and say that’s a men­tal dis­abil­ity and rule against them.”

Cook County Sher­iff Thomas J. Dart

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