Easter weekend was the bloodiest weekend of the year.
Chicago has recorded 90 gun deaths - a total of 465 victims of violence by gun, deaths and serious injuries - since the beginning of 2014. Of these, 48 victims were 16 or younger and two-thirds were under 30 years old.
Gun deaths are epidemic here - more than 500 homicides in 2012, most due to gunshots. The number dropped to "only" 415 gun deaths in 2013, paralleling decreases in other violent crimes.
Last weekend - April 18 to 20 - warmed up after a harsh winter ... and the shooting season renewed itself in earnest.
From last Friday evening to midnight Sunday night, eight people were killed and at least 36 more were wounded. In one incident, five of the wounded were children, ages from 11-15, shot from a passing car on Sunday evening on Chicago's south side. As the Chicago Tribune reported:
The children had been playing at a park near an elementary school and were walking home when a car pulled up and someone asked if they were in a particular gang, family members and police said.Last year, the Chicago PD reallocated resources to put more attention on gang violence. Statistically, it seemed to be having an effect. Now, the US Attorney is dedicating 16 of its 160 lawyers to a new Violent Crimes section. That announcement is below the orange lines ...
One relative said they had said they were not in the gang; another said shots rang out before they could answer. The gunman hit four girls and a boy.
... [T]he announcement Monday that [US Attorney Zachary Fardon] has created a new Violent Crimes section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office clearly reflects how gun violence has become a high-profile issue for an office better known for combating terrorism and public corruption. ...There is much to be said for a two-pronged approach. Local PD to investigate, prosecute and develop programs to address the factors that foster gang gun violence. And the Feds, because the problem is clearly bigger and multi-jurisdictional and they can more readily look across state lines.
[Spokesman Randall] Samborn said prosecutors will use [Federal] drug and gun statutes as well as extortion and money-laundering laws to go after criminal crews responsible for violent acts, including bringing conspiracy prosecutions similar to racketeering cases. While no new resources have been tapped, the restructuring will allow prosecutors to attack the problem with more agility, he said.
“This is putting a group of talented attorneys together and telling them that their mission is to help the city and the district tamp down violent crime...and to use all the tools and strategies at their disposal that are going accomplish that mission,” Samborn said.
The Chicago PD needs help. As the Guardian reported:
Ronald Holt, the commander of the Chicago police department’s special activities division, said that the city was witnessing “fratricide” among young men who had come to believe “that the only way to resolve a conflict is to get a gun and go shoot to kill”.Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy ...
"To tackle gun violence where it is overwhelming communities with the extraordinary loss of lives at an alarming pace, we must deal with it as a social disease and health issue,” Holt, whose 17-year-old son Blair was shot dead on a bus in 2007, told the Guardian in an email.
... compared the task his department faces as it tries to tackle gun violence to “drinking from a firehose”.Pro-gunners point out that all this violence occurred over years when Chicago had very strict laws virtually forbidding guns and gun carry in the city. Anti-gunners respond that guns and ammunition are so readily available in other states and nearby localities in Illinois - due to ineffective patchwork gun laws - that there's been a steady flow of illegal guns from elsewhere.
“We can do things to improve what’s happening, but until such time as we get some help with the gun laws in the state of Illinois, we’re up against it,” McCarthy told CBS News. But Illinois law has recently moved towards looser gun controls.
Straw purchase trafficking, parking lot gun shows, no restraints on amateur dealers who sell semi-automatic weapons to the street in high volumes, permissive laws in states a day's car ride there and back - these are just a few of the facilitators of urban gunfire. Judge Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals might be able to write with a straight face that the residents of a Gold Coast high rise need weapons to protect themselves on the street more than in their home-condos, but cases of bystander peril or having a perp take that gun away are far more likely than a Good Guy/Bad Guy confrontation which the right Guy wins. (The 7th Circuit case is Moore v. Madigan, which forced concealed carry on the state of Illinois.)
Mary Schmich, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, capsulized gun violence in Chicago in these terms:
Among the confounding aspects of Chicago's gun violence is that, despite the jolt that comes with every new shooting, every new killing, every new lament for a lost life and a troubled city, the violence is far from new. ...Guns, when all is said and done, top the list. Guns are the enablers of most of the homicides in this city. No, no single solution is evident. But more guns in the hands of civilians is pretty certainly not any of the right answers.
A generation later, what's changed are the names, the exact addresses, the specifics of the grief and fear, but not the bigger story or the root causes or the blame game.
It's the guns. It's the gangs. It's the parents. It's poverty. It's the lack of jobs. It's culture and family structure and prison policy. In reality, it remains all of the above. It's a nesting doll of problems.
Those bells toll for us all.
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