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“In Other Shootings” -- Our Problem with Guns

Photo by Dmitriy

Published in ChicagoNow, January 4, 2016

In other shootings.” Those words were actually the seventh paragraph in a story buried on page eight of today’s Chicago Tribune. The headline read “3 shot near W Hotel; 12 others shot citywide.”

I guess the order of information in the story makes sense. The W Hotel is in a “good” neighborhood and can afford a spokesperson to emphasize that none of their registered guests or performers were shot. Police were reluctant to link these shootings to a party that was taking place at the W Hotel. In the meantime, twelve more people were shot that night in other areas of Chicago. Areas in which we expect people will be shot.

I sighed and continued to read the paper. On page twelve, there was a short article with the headline “GOP contenders slam Obama gun laws push.” Maybe the Tribune could have put these stories side by side. Maybe even on page one. Because in my mind, there is a strong connection.

President Obama has spoken about the need to change our gun laws many times. Usually, these speeches follow a mass shooting like the slaughter of twenty innocent young children in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School or the recent terror-inspired killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, California. Surely, everyone will concede that mentally ill people and potential terrorists should not be able to accumulate an arsenal of guns.

But we can’t even agree on that. The GOP Presidential candidates must criticize President Obama for looking into ways to make an impact on our gun problem via executive order. What he is proposing is so minimal: background checks for all gun purchases (closing the so-called gun show loop hole) and keeping guns out of the hands of felons, the mentally ill, and terrorists. Most Americans agree with doing these things, but Congress refuses to take any action. I guess what the gun lobbyists want matters more to our representatives than, well, representing their constituents.

Trump tells us, “I don’t like anything to do with changing our second amendment… Obama just goes and signs executive orders on everything.” Christie calls the President “a petulant child” for attempting to work around a Congress that doesn’t work at all. Jeb Bush claims the President’s “first impulse is to take rights away from law-abiding citizens.”

We have all heard the argument that there is no law that would prevent every incidence of gun violence in our country. Of course, there isn’t. But how does allowing felons to obtain guns make any sense? I can guarantee that most of the folks who shot 15 people in Chicago this weekend were felons.

Maybe this story of the shootings was not deemed worthy of page-one news because no one died (yet). The three shot at the W Hotel are in critical condition. Two of the victims of “other shootings,” one of whom was only 16 years old, are also in critical condition. Some of the others were shot in the head, face, and leg. There were no details available about many of the people hurt in the other shootings, but let’s assume that if they all survive, many will have suffered life-altering injuries.

Now we are talking about a public health crisis. How many shooting victims survive and live very limited and forgotten lives? How many resources are used to help them recover enough to lead productive lives?

I am writing about a relatively quiet weekend in Chicago. If three people weren’t shot at a major hotel with a fancy address, I doubt we would have heard about the “other shootings.” Maybe if a child died or a policeman overacted and killed someone, it would have been deemed newsworthy. I am also not naïve enough to think that reforming our gun laws will solve our other social problems that include so many children being brought up in poverty, lack of services for the mentally ill, and the pervasive culture of violence that characterizes our country.

But we have to start somewhere. So, I return to one of many things that need to happen, and that is addressing our nation’s problem with guns. Until that happens, I guess we will have to endure news articles that contain the phrase “in other shootings.”



by Laurie Levy
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