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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.
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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.
- University of Chicago
- University of Chicago Crime Lab
- Gun Violence in Chicago, 2016
- NBC Chicago
- Chicago Tribune
- Chicago Tribune
- Chicago Tribune
- DNA Info
- Chicago Tribune
- CBS Chicago
- Chicago Tribune
- DNA Info Chicago
- Curbed Chicago
- WGN TV
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Angel Guzman