The grim news about gun violence in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend — 82 shootings and 16 deaths — has stunned the nation. But it has also caused another round of sober reflection among residents of the nation’s third largest city, who contend that more must be done to stem the violence.
Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, promptly called for an end to gun violence, saying there was a need for better policing, improved education, stricter gun laws and for “building a sense of community” to address the city’s gun violence.
But many in the city, which has seen its share of violent weekends year after year, insist that the problem is complex and that it should be approached in a number of ways. They add that carnage-filled weekends further demoralized a public that has grown frightened and dismayed by living in a city with high rates of violence.
“People are very frustrated whenever situations like this occur,” said Will Burns, a Chicago alderman, speaking in an interview with BET.com. “The community is upset and rightly so.”
Burns said that emphasis on police work and education is fine, but there is a role to be played by members of the community, particularly the largely Black and Latino south and west sides of the city.
“People think it’s the fault of the police. But, in many cases, the gang members are members of our own families,” Burns said. “They have relatives who often know what they’re doing and the kind of mischief their involved in. Are these people going to the community policing meetings? Are they talking with their neighbors about what’s going on? Or are they turning their backs to the problem?”
Burns pointed out that in 85 percent of the shootings in Chicago, the victims and the shooters know one another. “So, then a victim is shot, he doesn’t tell the police what happened. He decides to handle it on his own and the culture of violence continues,” Burns said.
Chicago has developed a national reputation for urban violence, the result of gang activities and drug-related attacks. The violence of the Fourth of July weekend represents the highest level of gun violence so far this year, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Malcolm London, a 21-year-old poet and teaching artist with Young Chicago Authors, was less reluctant to assign blame to officials in power, specifically the city’s mayor.
“When I see folks like Rahm and others talk about the violence in the city, I become apprehensive about what they have to say,” said London, in an interview with BET.com. “I think some of the policies they have adopted are often worse for the neighborhoods where the violence is happening.”
He added: “In Chicago, we have the systemic violence, the structural racism, the closing of 50 schools. That doesn’t make anyone feel any more safe.”
He said that the police have a role in the violence, pointing out that several of the weekend shootings were by police.
“I’m 21 and I fear not only the people who live around us, but I’m also afraid of the people who are supposed to be protecting us,” London said. “I’ve come to the conclusion that more gun control doesn’t eliminate gun violence. I’m more interested in bringing jobs ... community centers, youth programs.”
Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan
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(Photo: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)