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Bringing up violence in urban cities is one way to deflect from systemic racism. It remains a favorite tactic among some White people. It implies that if Black people are killing each other, then the more than 40 million Black Americans as a whole have no right to complain about white supremacist hate or violence.
The thinking goes, “If we don’t care about each other, why should the larger community care about our plight?”
Not only does this frame of questioning ignore the ways in which systemic racism has created pockets of poverty, a breeding ground for violence in any community. It also ignores the fact that groups and individuals have been pushing back against gun violence in Chicago for years.
For instance, at a Senate Appropriations Committee on June 26, Republican Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana asked FBI Director Christopher Wray a question. During a conversation about voter suppression, Sen Kennedy pivoted to gun violence.
“Why do you think Chicago’s become the largest outdoor shooting range in the world?” Sen. Kennedy asked.
Chicago gun violence is an epidemic
To be sure, gun violence in Chicago has reached astronomical levels. Throughout the pandemic in 2020, Chicago’s rate of shootings rose to a decades-high of 4,033 shooting victims and 769 homicides, according to the Associated Press.
Yet, the city is actually on pace to surpass last year’s morbid milestone. The Chicago Police Department released figures showing 524 homicides and 2,344 shootings between January and August 2021. August alone recorded 78 homicides, making it the second deadliest August in Chicago since 1996.
Nationally, over 100 people die every day from gun violence, according to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. It notes the firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 25 times higher than in other high-income countries. This fact may partly be attributed to our more lenient gun laws compared to those in Europe.
When it comes to Chicago, officials from Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to former President Barack Obama have called for more stringent gun laws.
“I think one of the things that is unique to Chicago is the over proliferation of guns on our streets,” Foxx told CNN recently.
President Biden, for his part, is utilizing the U.S. Justice Department to tackle straw purchases. These kinds of crimes occur when a person legally purchases a firearm then illegally resells it to someone unable to purchase it themselves.
Chicago stands among five U.S. cities that are part of the DOJ’s new anti-gun trafficking strike forces.
“That’s one of the things that makes it so difficult to work these cases, is there are trafficking schemes out there that involve many parties, or the guns do change hands legally a number of times before they are actually transferred to that person,” ATF Chicago Special Agent Kristen de Tineo recently told CNN.
Police violence in Black communities makes crime witnesses less likely to come forward
What often gets left out of the conversation around addressing gun violence is the fact that police shootings of Black teens and young Black men add to the crisis.
In fact, Black emerging adults are “five times more likely to be killed by a police officer than white emerging adults and nearly three times more likely than a Latinx emerging adult,” according to the Brookings Institution. Police shootings are a leading cause of death for young Black men.
Brookings highlights how these disparities contribute to distrust of law enforcement. The heightened distrust makes witnesses to crimes less likely to cooperate with law enforcement.
It may be convenient for a politician or social media poster to highlight Chicago’s homicide rate during conversations about racism. Yet the facts paint a much more complex picture.
Notably, even high profile Senators have faced close calls with gun violence in Chicago recently, prompting calls for Mayor Lori Lightfoot to declare a state of emergency for the country’s third-largest city.
Former Obama advisor David Axelrod recently urged the mayor to recognize that the violence is “more than we can handle here at city government,” echoing calls from Obama, according to local media.
Meanwhile, addressing the hellfire of bullets without demonizing the community may be the major test of Mayor Lightfoot’s term.
Nevertheless, some people continue to denigrate a community they don’t live in. Meanwhile, dozens of organizations have been working to make the city of Chicago safer for years and even decades.
Organizations in Chicago fighting against gun violence
Kids Off The Block works with 12-24 year olds to provide mentoring, basic resources, and encourages self-development to help young people achieve their dreams and avoid negativity.
Starting with just 10 youth, the organization impacts thousands of young people in Chicago since its 2003 founding.
Chicago’s Strides for Peace held a Race Against Gun Violence in September. Kids Off The Block founder Diane Latiker participated with other organizations seeking funding for their initiatives.
“Gun violence is in the news every day,” Latiker said. “Multiple people shot. Mass shootings, children shot. [This support] is needed now more than ever,” Latiker told Block Club Chicago.
Youth Guidance provides counseling and violence prevention, afterschool programs, and workforce development for teens. It serves over 13,000 kids in Chicago schools, according to its website.
Based on Chicago’s West Side, Build Chicago works to save lives through gang intervention, violence intervention, and youth development. The organization was founded in 1969.
A chapter of Cure Violence has resided in Chicago for years. A former head of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Intervention Development Unit founded the organization. It works in some of the most dangerous cities around the world with a proven model that has demonstrated results.
For a more comprehensive list of organizations and initiatives working to tackle gun violence in Chicago, view this list at ABC 7 News.