CHICAGO –With less than a week since the Colorado movie massacre, the gun control debate resurrects just as Chicago amends its local gun ordinance.
Wednesday, the Chicago City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest re-write of the law, permanently barring those convicted of a felony violent crime and enforcing a 5-year ban on those convicted of a misdemeanor violent crime, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Later in the evening, President Barack Obama addressed gun violence while speaking to the National Urban League in New Orleans, and pledged to work with lawmakers to help cease violence in all incidents — not just sudden massacres.
The Colorado incident, however, sheds a dim light on Chicago’s elevated gun activity this year, and has community activists and organizations that rally for stricter gun control laws demanding more of the government to protect its residents. Until now, neither of the presidential candidates has addressed the issue.
Emanuel, who’s part of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, co-chaired by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, declined to comment on the current gun control debate Wednesday, and has yet to speak out on the issue. Illinois governor Pat Quinn, however, recently spoke out in favor of gun control, showing his support for a ban on assault weapons, and opposition to the conceal carry proposal. He is one of a few local politicians who have taken the debate head-on.
“As a nation, we are better than this. This is not acceptable to have this kind of gun violence,” said Caroline Brewer, a representative for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “…to have American families and children at risk, everywhere, anywhere across the country, being slaughtered by somebody who was legally able to amass an arsenal of military-style weapons and ammunition, and walk into a movie theater and unload on all of those children and families, parents in a matter of seconds.”
Brewer continued, adding that “We as leaders in this business are working with advocates all over the country to get people involved and demand that our elected leaders not be allowed to shrug their soldiers and walk away from what happens in Aurora, Chicago, Detroit, in cities and small towns all over this country.”
In a statement following the tragedy last Friday, Bloomberg said, “…maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.” Wednesday evening, President Barack Obama opened a window to the debate calling for “stepped-up background checks for people who want to purchase guns and restrictions to keep the mentally unbalanced from buying weapons,” reports The Associated Press. Those steps, Obama said, “shouldn’t be controversial, they should be common sense.”
While the Aurora shooting injured 71 people — 12 of those killed — to date, there have been 1,262 shooting incidents in Chicago for 2012, up from 1178 in 2011. The murder toll is up to 284, of which 85 percent is typically shootings, according to the Chicago Police Department.
But why, activists ask, hasn’t there been as much attention paid to Chicago’s crime issue nationally–the president’s hometown? Many contend that one reason could be because since it’s in Chicago, murder and gun violence is simply the norm.
“We’re so desensitized that we let it happen,” said Chicago Far South Suburban Branch NAACP President David Lowery, Jr. “It is unfortunate that when gun violence happens in inner-city communities that there is not the kind of attention paid to it that’s being paid to Colorado right now,” Brewer said, “but everyone can relate at going out on Thursday night at a movie theater and not being able to anticipate at any level that someone is going to interrupt that movie with this incredible amount of gun fire. So we are angered and upset and feel just as strongly about gun violence anywhere it happens.”
Cy Fields, Pastor of Chicago-based New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church agrees, saying that many people throughout the world expect violence and gang warfare to be associated with Chicago, however, “ In Aurora, a non-urban city, sort of a static demographic, people don’t expect mass-murder, mass-killing. So it’s a shock in Aurora, but it’s a scorecard for Monday morning in Chicago because it’s become more of the norm in Chicago.”