Last week, Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl from Chicago, was performing with her high school band at President Obama's inauguration. On Tuesday, she was gunned down as she sought shelter from the rain under a canopy in a park near her well-regarded prep school — and less than a mile from Obama's Chicago home. Instantly, the teen — an honors student, volleyball player, and majorette at Kings College Prep School — became the face of Chicago's high, and possibly rising, murder rate. She also became part of the debate over gun violence that has erupted since the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) cited her death as the latest evidence of the need for more strict gun control.
Gun-control advocates, however, note that Hadiya Pendleton was the 44th person to die in Chicago this year. "That puts Chicago on pace to surpass last year's total of more than 500 murders," says the Washington Examiner in an editorial. Is that because the city has lenient gun laws? Quite the opposite, according to the Examiner. If anything, the paper says, Chicago is a laboratory that is proving that "feel-good laws" really "do nothing to decrease gun violence."
Some law-enforcement experts in Chicago aren't impressed by that logic because, they say, Chicago's gun laws aren't as tight as many people think since the penalties for violating them are pretty lax. A common sentence for gun possession, if the offender has no other felonies, is a year in prison. In practice, the person might get out after six months, which is not much of a deterrent to a seasoned criminal. "Chicago may have comprehensive gun laws," Garry F. McCarthy, Chicago police superintendent, tells The New York Times, "but they are not strict because the sanctions don't exist."
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The bottom line, says Hannah Kappe-Klote at PolicyMic, is that it's simply wrong to blame Hadiya Pendleton's death on "failed gun laws." Chicago's violence has a far more complex set of causes.
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