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Fear, Despair, and the Ongoing Gun Violence in Chicago

I'm immersed in local, state, and national politics. I like to write about key issues and interview candidates.

This article will take a deeper look at the slew of tragic homicides throughout Chicago in recent years.

This article will take a deeper look at the slew of tragic homicides throughout Chicago in recent years.

The City of Chicago is famous for its diverse cuisine, museums, sports teams, architecture, festivals, lakefront, and a lot more, but there is one thing that may overshadow them all: the continued gun violence that plagues the Windy City.

Away from the tourist-rich Loop and River North neighborhoods, some residents have been dealing with the threat of violence on a daily basis. Most of the gun violence is concentrated in some neighborhoods on the west, south, and northwest sides of the city, but on occasion spills into places you would never expect.

There have been several high-profile shootings that have angered many drawing national attention but the violence continues. The City of Chicago is the adopted hometown of former President Barack Obama, and during his outgoing year of 2016 there were 764 homicides. The 764 was a steep increase of the 485 murders recorded the year prior in 2015. In 2016, there were more murders in the City of Chicago than Los Angeles and New York City combined! Los Angeles registered 294 and New York City, which is three times larger than Chicago, had 334. The Great Chicago Fire and Al Capone both once threatened the city, but this is a far greater problem.

Tragic Recent Homicides in Chicago

Shootings are a daily occurrence in the City of Chicago but some are harder to forget than others.

  • On September 20, 2013 in the Back of the Yards neighborhood at a basketball court in Cornell Square Park, 13 people were shot. Among those injured was a three-year-old boy shot in the jaw. Two gunmen, one with an assault rifle with a high-capacity magazine, fired into a crowd.
  • November 2, 2015: a nine-year-old boy was lured into an alley in the Gresham neighborhood and killed. He was shot several times in the afternoon walking to his grandmother’s house. The 4th grader was targeted because of his father’s gang ties.
  • On May 7th, 2017 in the early morning, Daniel Cordova was shot and killed in the Brighton Park neighborhood near West 46th Place and South Rockwell. Later that afternoon, a group was mourning the loss of Daniel near the intersection of his murder in front of a memorial and two gunmen opened fire on them from the alley. Eight people were wounded and two siblings, brother and sister Adriana and Michael Williams, were killed.
  • On June 8th, 2017 in the early afternoon, in the Brighton Park neighborhood on South Troy near 47th Street, two teens approached a man who was talking to his family through a van window. Isaac Reed was talking to his girlfriend, who was with his two-year-old son and five-month-old daughter, in the vehicle. It was a nice day and they talked about going to the park. One of the teens asked Isaac what gang he was in. Isaac replied he was with his kids. The teen told the other teen to shoot him. Isaac and his girlfriend both said he was with his kids and Isaac was shot in the head. Isaac fell to the ground and the same teen stood over him, shooting him twice more. Isaac Reed was rushed to the hospital in critical condition with wounds to the head, shoulder, and back. He died later that afternoon.

A Look at Gun and Homicide Statistics

The City of Chicago has 77 neighborhoods and the five with the most homicides in 2016 were Austin, Englewood, New City, West Englewood, and Greater Grand Crossing. These five neighborhoods combine for 9% of Chicago’s population and 32% of murders in 2016. Austin is on the far westside of Chicago and the other four neighborhoods are located on the southside.

In 2016, 78% of homicide victims citywide were African-American, 16% were Latino, and 5% were Caucasian. 54% of homicide victims were gang affiliated, 45% were between the ages of 20–29, and 77% of shootings happened in the street and/or an alley.

In that same year, Chicago Police recovered 6,644 guns, which was over 700 more than Los Angeles and almost double of New York City. There is a growing percentage of guns recovered that support higher-capacity magazines, making them more deadly.

Gun Control Laws in Chicago

The City of Chicago has a reputation of being a city with strict gun control. In 1982, Chicago enacted a handgun ban, and for 28 years it was the law—until the United States Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional. In the years following 2010, there have been other laws struck down by the courts.

In 2011, the gun range ban was struck down. The new law allowed gun ranges only in an estimated 2% of Chicago’s borders, and that law was challenged and struck down as well in January 2017. New rules were approved by the Chicago City Council in May.

Illinois was the last state in the country to have a ban on concealed carry, but a court ruling in December 2012 ruled the ban unconstitutional. The ban on gun stores within city limits was struck down in 2014, but there has been a delay in the opening of businesses.

One frustration Chicago Police, residents, and local politicians have had over the years was the lack of strong penalties for repeat gun offenders. In late June of 2017, Governor Bruce Rauner signed a law that increased penalties to 7–14 years in jail for some repeat gun offenders. If a judge declined, they would have to explain their reasoning.

Chicagoans Leaving the Windy City

The City of Chicago continues to be a strong tourism destination, and 54.1 million visitors came to the Windy City in 2016. It is a beautiful city with a lot to offer, but while more people are coming to visit, Chicagoans are leaving.

In 2016, Chicago was the only top 15 city in the country to have a population decline. The decline was 8,638, nearly double the year prior of 4,934. The entire state suffered as well, as 37,508 left Illinois, the most of any state. Houston, Texas, the 4th largest city in the United States, may overtake the City of Chicago in population in the future.

Crime was one reason cited for some that have moved away. Some of the more unusual shootings in recent memory have been on Interstate 90/94, Lake Shore Drive, and along the Chicago River downtown. President Donald Trump recently sent federal assistance to help combat the city’s alarming gun violence. Steps are being taken with the help of local, state, and federal officials to reduce the violence. The excessive bloodshed and loss of life has to end.


© 2017 Angel Guzman

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RTalloni on July 16, 2019:

It is sadly interesting to note the statistics on the gun laws in Chicago working in favor of criminals and see the news on rising crime rates, along with that of those who are leaving the city/state. I find myself pondering how outrageous it is to prevent citizens from being able to defend themselves via laws and fear mongering.

Teaching kids they are no more than animals, exposing them to every sort of debauchery and violence, instilling hopelessness that leads them to jump on bandwagons that only causes their thinking to degrade by lying to them about who they are, how to become what they should be, and about the state of affairs in our country is at the root of it all.

Oh that they knew the truths of God's Word about themselves, this world, and the future! To learn and then believe that Jesus came to grant repentance and to change hearts and minds, that He gives abundant life changes everything for individuals, and communities.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 17, 2017:

Disrespect for life is on the rise everywhere. The environment of fear and despair you describe is not fitting for anyone to live in. What would it take for the gangs and violence to disappear and make Chicago beautiful in structure and in spirit? Lord, help us!

H Lax on August 23, 2017:

Your article helps bring to life the people who were murdered and make people realize that you don't have to be in the midst of a crime to be gunned down. More criminals from the past seemed to atleast have some reserve in regards to harming children and elderly. It's frightening that many don't even have that anymore.

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on August 21, 2017:

I would have to disagree with Kurt's earlier comment. Banning guns absolutely can reduce gun crime, and to a huge extent, and numerous studies demonstrate that - not least the experience of countries such as the UK, Australia and Japan. But of course any gun control has to be done in a serious way - nationwide, rather than just city-wide or State-wide, with strictly enforced controls on importation, powerful regulation on any legal gun ownership (gun types, background checks etc) and harsh additional penalties for anyone caught carrying a gun during the conduct of a crime (even if it's not fired).

The list of offences you detail is depressing Angel, partly for the wide-ranging nature of the offences, and partly for the sheer pointlessness of many of the killings from which nobody - even the killer - benefited. It is a sorry state of affairs, and with the present polarisation in American politics, there's no likelihood of it changing for the better any time soon. A sad situation.

Angel Guzman (author) from Joliet, Illinois on July 24, 2017:

Thank you for your comments Kurt, Mary, and Ryan. From where I am it's less than an hour drive under 30 miles for me to enter the City of Chicago. I spent a lot of time in Chicago and I felt compelled to write this. I wanted to be as on biased as possible and let the reader see how things are. I spent time in all the city and wish the violence would slow down! Mary I'm waiting for the harsher sentencing to kick in hope it helps and Ryan one say I would love to visit New Orleans regardless of crime.

Ryan from Louisiana, USA on July 24, 2017:

I hate hearing about these senseless crimes of violence. New Orleans is going down that same path. Such a beautiful city full of culture and great food, and now many people are moving out of the city because of the violence. So many people getting shot. It saddens me to hear these types of stories.

Mary Wickison from USA on July 24, 2017:

My mother used to work in Chicago and had such fond memories of the city. If she were still alive, it would break her heart to know what is going on there.

Although no one likes a heavy handed approach to law enforcement, in my opinion, that is what is needed. Perhaps the approach Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has. He has vigilante squads. The problem is, once that box is opened, it is hard to return to a 'normal' way of life.

Kurt on July 17, 2017:

Banning guns will never have a positive effect on gun crime. Study after study proves this.

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