A deadly summer is coming to an end and the gun crisis is reaching a whole new level, yet nationally, there is still no firm grasp on the absurd amount of murders in the United States.
Chicago was titled the murder capital of America in 2012, and with 506 dead in this year alone, that title is an understatement. There were 523 homicides, 3,000 shootings and 93 killed in only the month of August, making this the city’s deadliest month in nearly two decades.
The murder rate in Chicago is spiraling out of control, with more kills than New York and Los Angeles combined this year. According to BBC, this city hasn’t experienced a day without a homicide since February 2015, and advocates are renewing the call to address this “undeclared war.”
This issue has escalated so drastically that the deaths in Chicago have been compared to the deaths overseas. Since 2001, Chicago has experienced 7,916 murders, which is more than the number of Americans killed in Iraq (2,384) and Afghanistan (4,504) combined.
This ongoing violence has led residents of the Windy City to live in a constant state of fear, but who could blame them? In a survey held by The Washington Post, residents were found just as likely to think that a young person in the city would become a victim of a violent crime as graduate from college.
This surge in violence has made many people host block parties, gospel concerts and pickup basketball games – anything to bring back a sense of living. Homicides may be far below where they were around 25 years ago. Between 1990 and 1995, Chicago had at least 800 homicide victims each year; the number of homicides in big cities has spiked this year and last.
In an interview with PBS, University of Illinois at Chicago Physician Gary Slutkin argues that this violence is an epidemic. “I mean, why does someone who was exposed to child abuse, abuse their own kids? That would be the person who you would think would be least likely to do it, because he knows how bad it was. But, in fact, he’s picked up this contagious set of behaviors,” Slutkin said. Dr. Slutkin has founded Cure Violence, which trains former gang members and felons to stop violence in its tracks.
There are also several anti-violence groups, such as Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK), who stand their ground on street corners where there have been multiple murders in an attempt to stop the violence. But are these attempts enough?
Because of these attempts, a few street corners have been stopped from shootings. In a city of 2.7 million people though, this doesn’t account for much. Hypothetically, if every neighborhood had the same brave people who risk their lives to save people on their streets, this violence could all go away, but this issue is far beyond simplicity.
While people nationwide are aware of the epidemic, when most hear about deaths in Chicago, they simply shrug it off and say, “Oh that’s a shame.” No one is letting this directly affect them andno one is understanding how close to home this situation is.
Living in New Hampshire, gun violence does not seem relevant to my day-to-day experience. That does not mean, however, that I have the audacity to go through my day without trying to possibly understand what is happening to my country. No, I don’t live in a big city. No, I don’t know anyone who has been shot and killed. But, yes, I do want the violence to stop.
Gun violence in America, not just Chicago alone, has gotten unsettlingly out of hand. Nobody in these cities knows what step to take next or what day will be their last, regardless of whether they are a single parent, a lawyer, a felon or a five-year-old. There is no target. There is no reason. There is no purpose. At this point, there is no hope.
Olivia Belanger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org