Can Chicago cite parents when their kids illegally obtain a gun?

Chicago aldermen have suggested an innovative, though likely ill-fated law which would seek to hold parents accountable if their children wind up in possession of an illegal firearm. With a murder rate which is completely out of control and a Mayor who seems powerless to do anything about it, solutions are obviously needed. But would this work? At least one community leader thinks it’s worth a try. (CBS Chicago)

Should parents be held responsible if their child gets a hold of a gun? Yes, says one Chicago alderman, who has introduced an ordinance…

Ward 15 Ald. Raymond Lopez has introduced an ordinance that calls on parents to play a role in addressing gun violence and holding them accountable with a citation if they know their kid has a gun and doesn’t report it.

“Hopefully this ordinance will start the conversation about having people start paying attention to what’s going on in their children’s bedrooms, who they are hanging out with and what they are doing when they’re out in the street,” Lopez tells CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar.

I didn’t want to start off by dumping cold water all over this idea because I would honestly love to see it work. We’ve discussed urban gang violence here for years and one of the few conclusions which seems definitive is that real change won’t happen unless it begins with the families, the churches and community leaders driving a generational shift in attitudes toward gang violence and tolerance of criminal activity. That’s obviously far easier said than done, but any sincere efforts at the grassroots level to begin that process should be embraced.

With all of that said, however, the alderman’s plan has more than a few shortcomings. First of all, there is no penalty for this crime except a “citation.” There’s not even a monetary fine. I understand that the plan is intended to begin a conversation around the kitchen table, but it’s also described as “holding parents accountable” when their child gets mixed up with a gang and obtains an illegal firearm. You’re not really holding anyone accountable if they can simply throw your citation in the trash and proceed as if nothing had happened.

Perhaps even more to the point, how does one enforce this law? You’d have to prove that the parents knew that the kid had the gun, and unless he’s willing to rat out his own parents (for something that will get them a punishment less invasive than a parking ticket) you’ll be hard pressed to make its stick.

Even with all that said, I hope Chicago moves forward with this concept. If nothing else, it just might start the conversation that the alderman is hoping for in some of the most gang-ridden communities. And more to the point, it could move the city-wide conversation in the right direction when it comes to gun laws. They’ve already made it nearly impossible for a law abiding citizen to obtain a gun permit. The city should recognize that real solutions involve punishing those who obtain guns illegally and use them in crimes, not making it harder for citizens to legally exercise their Second Amendment rights.