Guns & Sex in Chicago

Chicago’s struggles with gun violence are heart wrenching, long standing, and well known. From the anything goes days of the 1920s, when gangs of organized criminals ruled the streets and gunned down anyone who dared get in their way, to the chilling reports of modern-day street gangs contracting hits on children as young as age 9, Chicago has earned a central place in this country’s conversation about guns, violence – and the difficulties in fighting against both.

In response to a particularly brutal upswing in gun violence and gun death, Chicago city leaders famously tried banning handguns in the city in the late 1980s. In an effort to circumvent Constitutional protections for gun ownership the city required registration of all firearms in the city limits, but didn’t allow for the registration of handguns, which effectively outlawed the possession of any handgun that hadn’t been registered previously. Several Chicago suburbs passed their own restrictions on registration.

But in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Chicago’s ban on handguns was unconstitutional, anyway. Shortly after, city council members passed a new ordinance that allowed for the possession of handguns for owners who obtained a Chicago Firearms Permit – which required a firearms training course, background check and permit fee. The ordinance included more restrictions – firearms are permitted only inside a dwelling, and permit holders were allowed only one useable firearm. In 2013, even these restrictions were overruled by state legislators’ passing of the Firearm Concealed Carry Act.

Of course, critics of Chicago’s restrictive gun laws often point to the continued murder and gun violence that continues to plague the city. Criminals won’t bother to jump through administrative hoops in order to register their weapons, these critics say. More restrictive laws only further punish law-abiding citizens.

A similar struggle has been taking place in Chicago in the fight against the illicit sale of sex, and sexual enslavement – often of underage victims – in the form of human trafficking. Despite several high-profile task forces, victims services, public awareness campaigns and specialized services, many feel that the city of Chicago is rapidly becoming – if it has not already become – a national hub for human traffickers, especially when it comes to sexual exploitation of women, boys and girls.

Here, too, the problem can be seen as one that’s rooted not in the lack of laws or regulations, but in the utter ineffectiveness of those laws as a deterrent to criminals who would engage in the trafficking of persons.

The number of existing laws traffickers break in their normal course of business are nothing short of mind boggling: Kidnapping, physical abuse, prostitution, of course, drugs, theft from victims, rape and even murder.  Here, again, we’re presented with a situation in which it does not seem that more laws or further restrictions will solve the problem. A different approach must be tried.

The city of Chicago is not unique in its struggles with perennial problems of gun violence and sexual exploitation, but it can offer lessons to other cities that are struggling with the same issues. Spike Lee’s new film Chiraq, due out on December 4, 2015, believes if women cut men off from sex, this will stop the gun violence. “No peace…no piece!”