The dead include a lovely 15 year old honor student named Hadiya Pendleton. On January 29th Hadiya was killed in Harsh Park on Chicago’s Southside. She was a sophomore at King College High School. Hadiya recently returned from the inauguration of President Barack Obama. She was a majorette with the high school band. The band performed at several inaugural events. When Hadiya was killed, she was at a local park with several fellow classmates, members of the school volleyball team. A torrential rainstorm began, and as she and her friends took cover underneath a canopy when she was shot in the back. Two of her classmates were shot in the leg but fortunately survived. Hadiya and none of her friends had any affiliation with gangs. So why did someone open fire on them?
At a police news conference in Harsh Park where she was killed, Hadiya’s father Nathanial Pendelton spoke to his daughter’s killer. “He took the light of my life.” Look at yourself, just know that you took a bright person, an innocent person, a nonviolent person.” Nathanial described Hadiya as a good student who was very active. A dancer, a cheerleader who wanted to attend Northwestern University to become a “doctor or pharmacist or maybe a lawyer.”
Hadiya’s name was sited during the gun violence hearings at the White House this week. Jay Carney, White House press secretary said that Hadiya is in the President and Mrs. Obama’s thoughts. Their prayers are with the family.
54 year old Cabrini-Greens housing projects resident Shirley Chambers, has lost all 4 of her children, to gun violence. Her son, Ronnie Chambers was the last of Ms. Chamber’s children to be murdered. 33 year old Ronnie Chambers an ex-gang member turned record producer had turned his life around. He was gunned down in mid-January, while sitting in a parked car, after attending a listening party.
Ms. Chambers lost her 18 year old Carlos while he was walking in Chicago’s South Loop. Her 23 year old son Jerome, was killed in April of 2000 outside of their in Cabrini-Green. He had just been hired to work in construction. Three months later, her 15 year old daughter LaToya was killed outside their home, by 13 year old boy. Ms. Chamber’s stated that “to have to bury all your children, all of them, it's hard. My life will never ever be the same again."
Though Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, over 500 people were killed in 2012. How does this happen? There are no gun shops. Assault weapons and high capacity magazines are banned. Decades long ban on handguns was only lifted in 2010. Potential gun owners must obtain a background check, get a Chicago firearms permit which requires firearms training, and a state-mandated firearms identification card. The state requires that all legal gun owners must report lost or stolen firearms. This is true of Chicago but not true of the entire state of Illinois. The penalty for having an illegal firearm is 1 year in jail. However in 2012, police seized almost 7500 illegal guns. Almost 600 were confiscated in January 2013.
Twenty five percent of the guns confiscated by the Chicago Police Department were purchased in Cook County, just outside of Chicago as well as other stores around the Illinois. Indiana state, not more than an hour outside Chicago also supplies the guns that somehow end up in Chicago. The Cook County Board president has introduced a countywide provision requiring gun owners beyond Chicago to report lost or stolen guns. First offence will be punishable by a $1,000 fine.
Clearly the gun laws that are in place now in the state of Chicago are not working. So, is the answer to gun violence more gun laws? The problem may be much bigger than that. Reverend Jesse Jackson says that the culture of violence in Chicago like many other minority environments, is poverty. The Reverend says that young black and brown children are born poor, hopeless and full of despair. They feel forgotten. They have been abandoned by one parent and the other parent spends many hours outside of the home trying to make ends meet. They are left often left alone to raise themselves. The schools they attend are old, worn down and not up to par. Teachers and staff are overworked. They are hungry. Maybe even depressed. They get to together to support one another. But they are children and children need love, understanding and guidance. They want to know someone cares for them.
Critics say that this is no excuse, because many who come from the same situation do not resort to gun violence. True. Unfortunately many is not all.