CHICAGO, February 19, 2013 — President Obama and Rahm Emanuel have both taken to the bully pulpit to demand that someone do something about the gun violence stealing the lives of America’s, and Chicago’s, youth.
But they are offering very different solutions.
Out of the White House is President Obama’s gun control package calling on Congress to take action in a number of ways, including:
* Establishing universal background checks for anyone looking to buy a gun
* Banning military-style assault weapons, as well as imposing a 10-round cap on gun magazines
* Confirming Todd Jones as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (Jones is currently acting director, as Congress has not confirmed a director in six years.)
Chicago already has strict gun laws. There are no licensed concealed or open carry privileges. To legally possess firearms or ammunition in Chicago, a resident must have a Firearm Owners Identification card, a law in effect since 1968. Cards are issued by the Illinois State Police after they perform a National Instant Criminal Background Check of the FBI database.
Grounds for disqualification for owning a firearm in Chicago include felony conviction, domestic violence, assault or battery within the last five years. If you have a protective order against you, you cannot legally posses a gun in Chicago.
Chicago also checks the Illinois Department of Human Services database and will disqualify an applicant with mental health issues. Chicago even has rules about purchasing firearms at gun shows.
Enforcing these laws is not enough. New laws are not enough. Chicago’s gun laws are not enough.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now taking a more honest position: Chicago’s violence is cultural and Emanuel is holding the Chicago culture that has created the violence accountable.
Recognized as the most segregated major city in the United States, Mayor Emanuel is speaking out against “segregated Chicago.”
In an open letter to Chicagoans in the SunTimes, Emanuel commented on the fact that “people from different neighborhoods, backgrounds and beliefs came together to mourn the death of a very special young woman: Hadiya Pendleton,” the teenager who was gunned down in a neighborhood park soon after returning from President Obama’s inauguration.
Emanuel goes on to praise the efforts of teens like Chelsea James, who spoke at a recent student-organized march against gun violence. He also, of course, praises his own plans to increase jobs, improve education and crack down on gangs, guns and drugs.
Then he takes aim.
His target: a culture that has produced a generation of young men who have “grown up without a father or an affirmative male presence to ground them morally and spiritually and provide them with a sense of self-worth.”
And he identifies them: “It’s time to stop tiptoeing around the uncomfortable fact that the overwhelming majority of perpetrators and victims of gun crime are minority males between the ages of 16 and 25.”
They are poor. They are often from a broken family.
The person who killed Janay McFarlane, whose sister Destin had, now famously, attended the President’s Gun control speech at a Chicago high school hours before Janay was killed in gang crossfire, and the person who killed 15- year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who marched in the inaugural parade, did not legally purchase their guns.
Chicago is under assault and no number of new laws would will stop the death of her children.
Though exact numbers are hard to come by, Slate.com reports since December 15th, that 61 persons, three times the number of children killed in Newtown, have been killed in Chicago. Just this past weekend, three more young people were shot.
Two of them were killed.
Oscar Marquez was a 17-year-old soccer player with good grades who was considering joining the marines after high school. He was on his way home from shopping when, according to police, someone in a white SUV with tinted windows drove up, a man got out and started firing shots.
Now his family must plan his funeral, along with the family of Frances Colon, 18, who was gunned down near a playground on Friday.
Chicago has had an unofficial policy of disregarding race when reporting crimes. When speaking of violent crime, the mayor’s office, the police and even reporters would not state a suspect’s race. The rationale was that stating race would confirm racial profiling and stereotypes, while not mentioning race would get Chicagoans to start thinking more about “us” and less about “them,” removing the “It’s not my neighborhood, it’s not my problem” apathy of violence.
Emanuel is trying to bring that apathy to an end.
Because it is not only the black culture that has created the violence. The reverse side of this culture is the elite, mostly white, “Not my neighborhood, not my problem” culture.
The park that Hadiya was gunned down in is in your city. It is your park. The streets that Janay and Oscar were walking down are in your city. They are your streets. You cannot eliminate your responsibility by saying they are not. They are. It is your problem. It does matter.
It matters to those that loved Hadiya, who was an honor student, and Janay, who dreamed of becoming a lawyer, and Oscar, who wanted to serve his country. Excuse me. Our country.
Our country. Our city. Our problems.
Our laws. Our cultures. Our solutions.
Our gun violence will not stop until we look honestly at our culture and hold it responsible, then look in the mirror and do the same.
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