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Proving the dangers of illegal guns

Some guns seized by Chicago police 2012

Some of the guns seized by Chicago police in 2012

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Updated: November 19, 2013 6:25AM

In Tuesday’s Sun-Times, University of California, Berkeley professor Franklin Zimring argued that the analysis of the new Illinois bill to raise mandatory minimums for illegal gun carrying that was carried out by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which I help direct, is based on three assumptions that are “provably not true.” Specifically, he argues our analysis assumes existing penalties are too lenient, that everybody who carries a gun deserves three years in prison, and that mandatory minimums will eliminate discretion in the criminal justice system.

Zimring’s claim that our analysis assumes any of these points is, for lack of a more diplomatic way to put it, wrong. We discuss how continuing discretion might shape the law’s effects on public safety. On the other two points, his op-ed is conflating the Crime Lab’s analysis of the bill with the bill itself. (A more detailed response is available on the Crime Lab’s website,

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Zimring’s op-ed, given his extensive work on gun violence, is his view that illegal gun carrying is essentially a victimless crime. Chicago’s crime data make clear that illegal gun carrying is a precursor to murder. Reasonable people can disagree about the best way to reduce illegal gun carrying in Illinois. But there should not be disagreement about the basic fact that illegal gun carrying is a lot like drunken driving in the probabilistic harm each act imposes on society.

Jens Ludwig

McCormick Foundation Professor at the University of Chicago and director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab

Voters partly to blame

A few things are missing from your excellent Thursday editorial about the federal government shutdown. The yahoos need to understand they are not representing their own little province. They are U.S. representatives and what they do affects the entire country, if not the world. Voters have a responsibility to put some effort into learning about political candidates and their positions. Primaries are important. Apathic voters are partly to blame for this latest fiasco.

Juanita Jarard, Homewood

‘Yahoos’ deserve a seat

Thursday’s editorial got my blood boiling. “Show the yahoos the door,” you scream about the tea party. That is not what a democracy is all about. Keeping the voice of the minority in the closet will not make the problem of partisanship go away, it will only fan the flames. Your editors reject the opposing argument of the tea party out of hand. Worse yet, they stoop to childish name calling, further showing a lack of respect for any opposing view. That’s not how our country was founded. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the tea party honchos are too polarizing and too extreme for our country, they do not represent my views. At the same time, I respect that these men and women were elected by their constituents and therefore deserve a seat at the table for their voices to be heard. They represent a percentage of our population, minority or not. In a democracy the majority wins, and the latest showdown proved that. But let’s not become a society in which we laugh away the argument of the other as a paranoid delusion.

Scot Sinclair, Gurnee

‘Frankenstein’ politics

Political consultant Karl Rove’s current bad-mouthing of tea party Sen. Ted Cruz reminds me of that scene in “Frankenstein” when Victor Frankenstein looks aghast upon his creation. Rove and his ilk turned the normal friendly but adversarial give-and-take of politics into a zero-sum game, prepared to destroy the institution of government for personal gain. Cruz and company are merely the predicatable consequences of win-at-any-cost politics.

Richard A. Kosinski, Edison Park

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