NRA: “Chicago gun violence is bad despite strict gun laws” but gun violence is worse in Memphis where gun laws are weak

Yesterday, Memphis reached a sobering milestone, logging their 200th homicide for the year.  Sadly, there has already been another homicide in Memphis as they continue to trend towards the deadliest year in the city’s history.

The National Rifle Association regularly points to the city of Chicago as an example of how strict gun laws have no effect on gun violence.  They point out that Illinois has universal background checks, imposes a waiting period to purchase a gun (72 hours for a handgun, 24 hours for a long gun), and has stringent concealed carry laws.  Of course, Chicago is a short drive from Indiana that has much weaker laws.

But is Chicago really the worst city in the country for gun violence?

Not by a long shot. 

The Commercial Appeal notes that according to the latest U.S. Census estimate, the Memphis population stands at 656,861 for a homicide rate of 30.44 victims per 100,000 population in 2016.  

Further to the south, New Orleans sees even more homicides at 40+ per 100,000 so far this year.

Now, compare that to Chicago.

During that same period in Chicago, 685 people have been killed.  Yes, that number is much higher than Memphis, but Chicago’s population is more than four times that of Memphis. As of the most recent U.S. Census estimate, the Chicago population is 2,722,389, for a homicide rate of 25.16 victims per 100,000.

A recent analysis of firearm-related deaths by CBS News, using the most recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics, looked at the 20 states with the highest rate of “death by gun.”  Tennessee was 10th.  Louisiana was 2nd.

Illinois didn’t make the list.

Earlier this year, Yahoo News, using violent crime data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Report, they reviewed the 10 states with the highest violent crime rates. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.  Tennessee ranked 3rd.  Louisiana ranked 6th.

Illinois didn’t make that list, either.

Each year, the Violence Policy Center publishes “When Men Murder Women”, an analysis of female homicides perpetrated by men.  The most common weapon is always a firearm and most every case, the victim knew her killer.  Very often, they were, or had been, in a romantic relationship.  The report provides a list of the top ten states where these murders happen most often.  In the most recent report, Tennessee ranked 9th.  Louisiana ranked 2nd.

No Illinois.

Just last month, USA Today and the Associated Press worked together on an analysis of accidental shootings of children.  The report noted that accidental shootings kill at least one child every other day.  Louisiana was second (9.42 per million)  Tennessee was 4th (7.88 per million).  Memphis hold the distinction of being the #1 city in the country for accidental shootings of children.  Nashville is 10th.

Illinois?  Illinois is 29th on the list (3.19 per million).


Of the 33,000 Americans who lose their life to a bullet each year, around 21,000 or two-thirds of them are suicides.  As with domestic violence shootings, guns are the most common weapon used.  Research demonstrates that firearm suicides are unique in both their impulsivity and lethality.  According to 2014 data from the Centers for Disease Control, 444 people in Louisiana killed themselves with a gun (9.55 per 100,000), 596 people in Tennessee killed themselves with a gun (9.1 per 100,000).

533 people in Illinois used a gun to take their life (4.14 per 100,000).

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence looks at gun laws across the nation and assigns each state a grade.  The grades are based on a number of factors.  States that have passed good gun laws and rejected attempts to weaken gun laws score high marks while those states that have passed more permissive laws and have rejected attempts to strengthen gun laws are given low or failing grades.


Tennessee gets an F.

Louisiana gets an F.

Illinois gets a B+.

Chicago is an outlier.  There’s no disputing the epidemic of gun violence in the city, but other cities have higher homicide rates. It’s time for the NRA to stop using the city of Chicago to prop up their incorrect assertion that gun laws have no effect on gun violence.  In fact, states with weaker gun laws (such as Tennessee) see much higher rates of gun violence, be it homicides, domestic violence shootings, unintentional shootings, or firearm suicides.