Chicago’s Gun Violence is America’s Gun Violence Problem

I’ve heard it said before that it’s important to pay attention to social trends in the black community because they provide a roadmap for the challenges faced by the mainstream fifteen to twenty years later. Look no further than the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s which was the precursor to the current opioid epidemic. Or the ongoing employment battle for black Americans that now has suburban and rural whites firmly in its grasp. Then there is the gun violence in Chicago. Often used as a talking point for conservative lawmakers or as a quick clap back to neutralize African American progressive causes, it seems the type of gun violence seen for years in Chicago has now swept the nation.
Today, a gunman in the small California town of Rancho Tehama opened fire, killing four people and leaving ten injured including an elementary school student before being shot dead by police. And last Sunday, a gunman walked into a Texas church with a semi-automatic weapon and killed at least 26 people. Among the dead were children and a pregnant woman. 
In 2017, there have been more than 300 mass shootings in the United States, with Chicago representing 10 percent of those incidents. That’s 6,880 gun-related deaths in the U.S. and 591 in Chicago this year.
Although on its surface gang violence in Chicago may not seem related to the Rancho Tehama or Texas church shooting, in the most important ways they are the same. In Chicago, the vast majority of shootings and gun violence are committed by gang members. However, the profile of those gang members; disillusioned males who seek vengeance for small vendettas or out of envy, fit the same profile as mass shooters.
Both in Chicago and the U.S. two important elements are needed to stop the gun violence epidemic. The first is economic. People, and men in particular need access to stable jobs that provide a living wage. As our society has changed, jobs for blue collar workers have been eliminated or reduced leaving millions of men unemployed and feeling left out of the new economy. Second, is systematic change. This means equal access to education that prepares people for the global market, access to affordable mental health care and nationwide gun control laws that include mandatory gun training, licensing and a database of owners. As well as gun buyback programs.
Instead of throwing our hands up and writing gun violence in Chicago off as a lost cause, I think it is time America embraced the problems in the windy city. After all, solving the gun violence problem in Chicago very likely is solving America’s gun violence problem.

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