Notifications

It never fails. Bring up the possibility of passing gun control laws, and a conservative invokes “Chicago” as some sort of deflector shield.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders did just that at Monday's press briefing in the wake of the terrible mass shooting in Las Vegas:

Q: Before he was elected president in some 15 or 16 years ago, he did have a different view on guns than he had during the campaign. Does he believe this is something that he could lead a bipartisan effort on at some point? At what point would that be appropriate?

SANDERS: I think that's something that we can talk about in the coming days and see what that looks like moving forward. I think one of the things that we don't want to do is try to create laws that won't create or stop these type of things from happening. I think if you look to Chicago where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year. They have the strictest gun laws in the country. That certainly hasn't helped there. So I think we have to — when the time comes for those conversations to take place, then I think we need to look at things that may actually have that real impact.

Conservatives have been making Chicago the bogeyman for the Republican Party base since at least 1968, when Richard Nixon blasted the city as a hotbed of lawless liberalism in the wake of the disturbances around the Democratic Party convention. The practice reached a fever pitch during the last administration because of Barack Obama's deep connections to the city, but it was nothing new.

That this silly talking point is being repeated from the White House podium only reinforces just how much the executive branch is almost indistinguishable from the comments section at Breitbart. It would be nice if Huckabee Sanders would note three facts, at a minimum, before doing it again.

One, while Chicago does have strict gun control laws, there is evidence that a fair number of the guns used in crimes in the city are brought in from surrounding counties and states that don't. Most notably, Indiana has been a favorite source of weapons for Chicago gangs.

Two, Chicago is not actually the most violent city in America. In terms of cities with a population of over 250,000, Chicago places eighth in homicides. (91 percent of Chicago's homicides are committed with firearms.) Why not yell about St. Louis for a change?

Three, the problems leading to violence in Chicago are notably different from whatever likely drove an old white man from Nevada to commit mass murder. The problems of Chicago — poverty, racism, hopelessness among marginalized populations — and every other violent city call for an entirely different set of responses.

Yelling “Chicago,” with its large African-American population, is a racist dog whistle. Which is about what we have come to expect from this administration. Maybe one day it will surprise us and not do that.

Watch Huckabee Sanders's answer in the video below.

Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.