It’s been all over the news this week, as well it ought to be. A warm and festive 4th of July weekend in the Windy City was utterly marred by extreme gun violence. 82 people were shot, leaving 16 dead. Media outlets such as The Los Angeles Times have been quick to label it “the greatest spate of gun violence so far this year.” In a firearm obsessed country such as the United States, this is negatively notable achievement.
I am a lifelong citizen of Chicago and a current resident of the Rogers Park neighborhood, a far north side enclave that is no stranger to guns and gang activity. The Second City has been infamous for its violent reputation for many decades. In a bit of gallows humor, writer Mason Johnson of CBS Chicago observed in Fall 2013, “Thanks to recent headlines, you’d think the FBI rolled out the red carpet and handed Chicago a beautiful, hand-engraved (in cursive!) plaque that reads ‘Murderiest Murder City in Murderland.'”
It’s so funny, it actually hurts. Though the Independence Day weekend killing spree is remarkable for its extremity, the Times piece observes “1,129 have been shot so far this year in Chicago…There were 2,185 shooting victims in Chicago last year.”
As far back as mid-2012, the Huffington Post ran an article with the lurid but true headline, “Chicago Homicides Outnumber U.S. Troop Killings In Afghanistan.” Chi-town has been out of control for years. But why exactly? We understand the city’s stratification: ongoing problems with gang activity, segregation, and gentrification juxtaposed with municipal neglect. But that doesn’t entirely account for the frustrating aggression of the holiday weekend. Who has the answers? Let’s turn on CNN and see what the channel formerly known as a serious news network has to say.
Wolf Blitzer, conservative host of The Situation Room: “Outrage and finger-pointing today after a holiday weekend bloodbath; 11 people were killed, dozens wounded in a series of shootings not in a place like Baghdad, but in a major American city, President Obama’s hometown of Chicago…this is truly shocking what has been going on.”
Newt Gingrich, former Republican House Speaker and current Crossfire host: “I’m outraged by the degree to which we as a country have not focused on what happened over the weekend in Chicago. At least 82 people were shot, 82 — 14 of them died. It’s really troubling that the country is numb and so indifferent.”
Were these observations uttered by other people, I’d be inclined to join the head shaking. But it really stretches one’s tolerance to the limit to be asked to endure it from members of the party so deep in the NRA’s pocket, they couldn’t get behind minor, common sense reform like the implementation of universal gun sale background checks after the 2012 Newtown massacre.
What’s really behind the violence in Chicago and elsewhere? One simple word: guns. Lots and lots of guns. Though I understand that the holiday weekend carnage wasn’t perpetrated by licensed gun owners, the last thing the city needed was the implementation of Concealed Carry in 2013. If as National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre claims, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” that postulation was put to the test in the Second City last weekend. Guess what? Fail.
The faux outrage displayed by CNN’s conservative media personalities will lead nowhere, as has been the case with so many gun-infused killing sprees before this. And I’m entirely sure that Blitzer’s attempt to connect the violence with President Obama was coincidental. Right?
What’s really shocking is how often representatives from the right try to have it both ways – and expect us to allow it. Gingrich’s liberal counterpart, Stephanie Cutter did her level best to bring the conversation back to the problem of our laughable gun laws. She countered Newty by observing, “I found this report from the city of Chicago Police Department from a month ago that says they do have a gun problem but their gun problem is as a result of illegal guns coming across state lines or from the outside county into the city of Chicago because there are lax laws — lack of gun loopholes that allow people to buy guns without a background check.”
And the network’s Piers Morgan tweeted, “Imagine the uproar if 60 people were shot in a weekend in London/Paris/Rome/Madrid/Sydney? Yet most Americans will just shrug and ignore.”
The only thing that’s shocking and outrageous is using preventable, sustained murder as a headline generator. We could so something as a nation about our rampant gun violence anytime – if only half of our politicians weren’t firmly under the NRA’s thumb. Where’s the outrage about that?