One week ago, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton performed with her high school band here in Washington at President Obama's inauguration. In addition to being a majorette, Pendleton was also an honor student and volleyball player who dreamed of visiting Paris this summer.
On Tuesday, she was shot dead in a public park two blocks from her high school and less than a mile from Obama's Kenwood home in Chicago. The shooting prompted White House spokesman Jay Carney to remark, "If we can save even one child's life, we have an obligation to try when it comes to the scourge of gun violence."
Pendleton was the 44th homicide victim in Chicago so far this year. That puts Chicago on pace to surpass last year's total of more than 500 murders. Chicago homicides have picked up dramatically in recent years and now outnumber killings in New York, which has three times Chicago's population. Meanwhile, in the Big Apple, fewer people were killed in 2012 than in any year since the 1960s. During a nine-day stretch this month, not a single New Yorker was murdered. Here in Washington, there have been only four murders so far in 2013. That's down 33 percent from the same period last year, when the city had the fewest killings in 50 years.
Despite the media's intense attention to mass shootings, homicides, violent crime and gun deaths are all decreasing nationally, according to the latest FBI statistics. But not in Chicago. So what is causing the unacceptable wave of gun violence in Chicago?
It's not because of lenient gun control laws. Chicago has the strongest gun control regime in the nation. Both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are completely banned in the city. And up until the 2010 Supreme Court decision that legalized them, handguns were banned too.
You can now get a permit to own a firearm in Chicago, but it requires firearms training, two separate background checks and a firearm owner's identification card. As a result of these burdensome and punitive measures, only 7,640 people currently hold a firearms permit in Chicago. But criminals couldn't care less about Chicago's gun laws. Chicago police seized 7,400 guns used in crimes in 2012 alone.
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in the U.S. Capitol titled "What Should America Do About Gun Violence?" Mass-shooting victim and former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords testified, as did National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre. But no one from the new murder capital of the United States, Chicago, was invited to testify.
If Senate Democrats continue to push for more gun control legislation while ignoring the failure of existing, similar gun control laws in the president's hometown, House Republicans should rectify the situation. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., should take C-SPAN's cameras on the road and hold a field hearing in one of the few American cities where gun violence is bad and getting worse. We suggest a title that gets right to the point: "Why Isn't Gun Control Working in Chicago?"
One question to address: If the real problem is that guns can be purchased in other jurisdictions, then why are America's other major cities seeing such huge declines in their murder rates, despite the fact that nearly all of them are near states with relatively lax gun laws?
If Democrats are truly interested in making Americans safer, and not just in passing feel-good laws that will do nothing to decrease gun violence, then they should welcome a closer look at what is going so horribly wrong in Obama's hometown.