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NRA's Wayne LaPierre targets Chicago on federal gun law enforcement

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Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, was on Meet The Press on Sunday in a debate session opposite New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. During an exchange with host David Gregory, LaPierre took to task the Obama administration for what he defined as a poor record enforcing federal gun laws in dealing with gangs in Chicago:

WAYNE LAPIERRE: I mean, let me give you the real sad thing though. Let me hold up a mirror right now to the whole national news media and the White House. I just got the TRAC data from Syracuse University of enforcement of federal gun laws. Last time I was here, I brought it from 2011; it just came out from 2012.

Do you know where Chicago ranks in terms of enforcement of the federal gun laws? Out of 90 jurisdictions in the country, they ranked 90th. Why doesn't NBC News start with, "Shocking news on Chicago. Of all the jurisdictions in the country, Chicago's dead last on enforcement of the federal gun laws?" Why doesn't the national press corps, when they're sitting down there with Jay Carney and the president and the vice president, why don't they say, "Why is Chicago dead last in enforcement of the gun laws against gangs with guns, felons with guns, drug dealers with guns?

DAVID GREGORY, HOST: And you support those as felonies, being charged as felonies?

LAPIERRE: Absolutely. And we want them taken off the street. I mean, if you're the president and the vice president, and the attorney general, and your job is to enforce these laws against the-- I'm talking about drug dealers, gangs, and felons that are walking around with guns in the street, and you don't do it? You bear some responsibility. It is a tragedy.

LaPierre was likely referring to this data - he didn't specify which report he was citing - from Syracuse on the downturn in federal gun prosecutions when compared to the 2012 numbers:

This report shows federal gun prosecutions at a level about the same as 2002 - down after a decade-long high in 2004. Though no specific data points to or ranks Chicago for 2012 gun prosecutions.

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The TRAC data breakdown of federal gun prosecutions since 2002. Via TRAC at Syracuse University

The report does not offer a clear breakdown for urban areas or cities. But it does make clear that federal gun prosecutions are up as a trend:

Looking at just the last decade, the records show that from FY 2002 to FY 2004 prosecutions jumped from 7,948 to 11,015, up by more than a third (38.6%). From the 2004 high, however, prosecutions declined to 7,465 in FY 2011, down by 32.2 percent. Then, in just the last year, prosecutions increased up to 7,774, or 4.1 percent higher than in the previous year.
But examined over the last quarter century, a somewhat different picture emerges. Despite the recent ups and downs, federal prosecutions today are a great deal higher than in the pre-9/11 era. Figure 1 shows that the volume of federal gun prosecutions has in fact had two distinct peaks of activity. The earlier peak occurred precisely twenty years ago, in FY 1992.

The detailed 2012 report - available for a fee - indicates federal gun prosecutions are actually at a tracking high in the last four years:

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From the "Prosecutions for 2012" report:

Compared to five years ago when there were 117,651, the number of FY 2012 prosecutions of this type is up 42.4 percent. Prosecutions over the past year are much higher than they were ten years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are up 77.9 percent from the level of 94,132 reported in 2002 and up 118 percent from the level of 76,818 reported in 1992.

While the prosecution rates for the nations 94 federal districts are tallied - and the top 10 districts per capita are listed - no mention of Northern Illinois or Chicago is specifically made.

UPDATE, 11:09 a.m., 3/25/13:

The report LaPierre is referencing is a measurer of gun prosecutions per capita by rank - available here for a fee. The breakdown shows the Northern District of Illinois - not limited to Chicago - as 90th ranked, falling above only the U.S. territories.

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 11.08.06 AM.png

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When not ranked on a per capita basis, however, the entire state of Illinois - all three districts - falls into the medium-high rank of the prosecution spectrum:

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The Northern District falls about in the middle in 2012 ranking in a non-per capita comparison with 52 gun prosecutions. That's down from 2011, when 65 were tallied. The other totals since '07: 

  • 2010 - 95; 
  • 2009 - 60; 
  • 2008 - 56; 
  • 2007 - 40. 

These numbers are largely without context, however, not taking into account where and how gun crimes are being prosecuted - plea deals for larger prosecutions and the fact that many gun purchases and trafficking and the subsequent legal outcomes take place away from Chicago, for instance.

On a local level in Chicago there is a diminished enforcement rate for gun crimes and city authorities favor stricter sentencing and prosecution guidelines at the state and local level, reporting has shown.

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1 Comment

Thank you for clearing up the mangled facts LaPierre spouted yesterday.

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