"Did you know, the only person to actually die this year, as a result of a shooting, was the man who died after the church shooting?"
I looked over the top of my glasses, across the table, at my husband who offered this information, seemingly, to calm my growing concerns over gun violence in our neighborhood.
"Did you know that I don't want to get shot? Nor do I want you or the girls to get shot? Or anyone really, no more shooting."
"But come on, doesn't it make you feel better to know that statistically you are not likely to actually die if you are shot, at least in our neighborhood?"
Statistically I am less likely to get shot because I am a white female but even that, combined with Jack's gunshot survival rate, isn't slowing my growing concern. It may not be me, or my children, but right now it's going to be someone, and that is too many.
His angle used to be that we were safe because none of the four of us were knowingly affiliated with any gangs and gangs were the ones doing all the shooting. He gave that up when the gangs, to whom he seemed to have attached a high level of intelligence and target acumen, began shooting wildly at anyone moving near their intended target. When they started firing from cars across busy and crowded streets, this conversation was over.
In the past month nine people have been shot in our neighborhood, and we live on the north side of the city, where people assume you are safe. The news focuses on crime on the south and west sides where shooting is more prevalent and young people dying is much more common. Our nine shootings don't even put us in the top 12 violent neighborhoods in the city. Gun violence is so common in Chicago that neighborhood shootings are no longer the lead story on the 10:00 news.
Last week someone was robbed at gunpoint in front of our neighborhood library. The week before that there was an assault at the park at the end of our block, around lunch time.
Two weeks ago, the same week that the Navy Yard shootings took place, 13 people were wounded when a gunman fired an automatic weapon into a crowded city park. That no one died is a true miracle, that no one died kept this story from being major national news. Five people have now been arrested; it appears they were mad because one of them had earlier been shot, grazed in a drive by shooting. Retaliation for that, open fire on a crowded park. Someone might have thought that seemed reasonable.
In Chicago, our shooters are not generally ones with long histories of mental illness. They are young people who are angry. They are young people who have ready access to guns and, it seems, limited access to good decision making skills. One day last week I had the Tribune spread out all over the library desk at school, reading the article about the the then three (now five) young men arrested in connection with the park shooting. One of the older students looked over my shoulder, "oh, I know him", and he pointed to one of the mug shots in the article. I whirled around, "you do?".
He looked again, "oh, no never mind. Not that guy, but a guy from my block got arrested last week, but that was another shooting", and he shrugged his shoulders.
"Was he a friend of yours?".
"Nah, I didn't really know him, he's older. But we all know who he is", and he walked off, back to class, as casually as if he had told me he had pizza for dinner the night before.
During the 2011-2012 school year, 319 Chicago Public School students were wounded by gunfire, 24 of them fatally. My children, my CPS students, barely notice the sirens we hear almost daily outside our apartment. They see police cars outside neighborhood schools and rarely question why. They participate in lock down drills at their school and say good morning each day to the off duty police officer who stands at the top of the stairs when they make their way into the building. What is scary to me is a way of life to them, and that scares me.
The week before the park shooting FBI numbers showed Chicago as the
murder capital of the United States. Almost immediately that was
refuted, numerous writers pointing out that per capita you were much
more likely to be shot in Flint, Michigan, a town with a population
around 100,000. I'm not standing on title, hand it off to Flint, MI if necessary but find a way to stop the people in Chicago from shooting each other.
When I started writing this last week, 277 people had died in Chicago thus far this year as a result of gunshot wounds. Today, about one week later, that number is 282. And tonight on the news, three teenagers shot on the city's south west side. It's enough to make you very angry.