CN January 17, 2013

Guns and gun regulation policy dominated this week’s news, both nationally and locally. And Steve Edwards was in the middle of Chicago’s discussion, in his new capacity with the Institute for Politics at the University of Chicago.  The Institute held a big-time discussion on the topic this week, at which there was a good deal of discussion about assault weapons. Steve joined us on this week’s show.

“We know that the vast majority of crimes committed with guns in the United States, and certainly in Chicago, have to do with hand guns,” Steve tells us. “So in some respects a big debate on assault weapons may be acutely important for the broader picture, it’s less important on the City of Chicago’s doorstep.”

As much damage as has been done with powerful military-style weapons, he points out, America’s big cities are being victimized by the smaller hardware.

“Eighty percent of guns owned in the United States are owned mostly by people in rural communities,” he says. “They own a lot of guns, multiple guns. Most of them have no criminal record and no criminal intent. And it’s that twenty percent of guns in circulation, and in circulation particularly among young people, that is the acute problem. And so the policies really should be focused on trying to address that issue, and it remains to be seen how much of this package will address that issue.

Attorney and activist/blogger Matt Farmer is also on the panel this week. We asked him for some perspective on the on-going schools-closings controversy. Earlier this week, the committee set up to advise CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on closings issued a statement opposing the closure of any high school and many categories of elementary schools. It all has to be decided soon, because the plan has to be made public and submitted to the State by the end of March.

“CPS I think made a mistake when they got this extension to get more time to consider school closings because what this has done is it has allowed the community more time to organize,” Farmer tells us.

“We’re on the cusp of closing a bunch of schools, supposedly because of utilization,” he says. “But the Commission’s report, that came out just a week ago, brought all sorts of academic and performance factors into its calculus, saying – leave level one schools, the high performance schools, alone, and level two schools that are ‘on the rise’, whatever that means. So now we’re bringing in this performance standard. Barbara Byrd-Bennett started this by saying as part of this there will be a five-year moratorium on school closings. What she hasn’t said though…they’re still gonna reserve the right to turn around schools, close schools for performance reasons, phase out schools, so this really isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.”

“Since 1996 we still don’t know what are the criteria for closing schools,” Edwards adds. “We still don’t know what actually proves to be successful thereafter, we don’t have a process for how you bring the public in, every single time it seems ad-hoc, and it would seem this late in the game, the school district should do a much, much better job of being clear and being able to deliver on this.”

(By the way, we still miss Steve’s wit and wisdom on WBEZ, but we wish him the best with his new job in academia.)

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About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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