82 Shot, 14 Killed in Chicago over July 4th: Time for Nonprofits to Demand Gun Control

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July 7, 2014; USA Today

Fourteen people were killed over the July 4th weekend. They weren’t killed in auto accidents or by misdirected Roman candles, but by people wielding firearms. Eighty-two people were shot. It’s the kind of total one might expect in a nation torn by a civil war, not in just one U.S. city over a holiday weekend. It is hard to believe.

At least five of the 14 were killed by police, including two teenagers—14 and 16 years old—who reportedly refused police orders to drop their weapons. According to the Chicago Tribune, many of the wounded are in critical condition, so it is possible that the July 4th tally of deaths due to gun violence may rise. While most of the victims were young, one of the victims was a 66-year-old woman, who was shot in the head as she walked up the steps to the porch of her home.

The news from Chicago was so awful that the national press paid little attention to July 4th weekend killings elsewhere in the U.S. In Indianapolis, a police officer was killed amidst shootings over the holiday. Multiple shootings left at least four people dead in San Francisco. A number of shootings in Long Beach left at least one person dead. Two people were killed in Baltimore over the holiday.

And so it goes: wherever one looks, deaths due to gun violence in city after city. But Chicago is a special case. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had made reducing gun violence a cornerstone of his administration, decried the shootings as “senseless” and “unacceptable.” There is no question that Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy is sadly correct that the reason for the unending gun violence in Chicago is primarily due to the proliferation of firearms.

In the wake of the Chicago slaughter, there will be marches, and calls, and candlelight vigils, and pledges of community building, and ceremonies, and on and on. They are all worthwhile, but none will work without getting guns off the streets, pure and simple. If anyone needs any justification for gun control, Chicago’s bloody Independence Day weekend is all that is needed.

But where is the nonprofit sector? The nonprofit sector writ large has nothing in common with the National Rifle Association and its ilk, which have deep-sixed even the most modest of legislative gun control approaches, such as background checks and the banning of weapons that are better suited to battlefields than neighborhoods. Every single nonprofit that has a whit of concern for the health and safety of 14-year-old teenagers and 66-year-old women ought to be outraged by our nation’s self-slaughter, played out in the streets of Chicago. It isn’t a violation of bans on political electioneering for nonprofit employees, board members, and volunteers—as individuals, but en masse—to tell this nation’s feckless and often gutless politicians that the time for reining in the gun terror of America’s cities in now. Enough!—Rick Cohen

  • DRB

    Stop calling it gun violence. Call it by it’s real names, gang violence, black youth violence. Chicago has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. Other cities have very loose gun laws but not near the violence of Chicago. It’s not the guns it’s the people.

  • MrsCrashsmith

    Guns are inanimate objects that unless some unscrupulous person picks it up can do nothing more than sit there. The gun does not pull its trigger by itself. It is time that the PEOPLE that are committing these crimes are prosecuted. You have the gangs that think it is okay to claim city streets because they live there. I wonder how much property tax they pay? When is the real issue going to be addressed which is a whole generation of young teens that have had no father figure in their lives because the Federal Government has paid them to stay away. It is time to start pointing the finger where it belongs and that is the breakdown of the family and the rise of Welfare, HUD, free cell phones, etc.

  • Mike F

    You have got to be kidding! Cities like Chicago and Detroit are war zones. They also have some of the most restrictive gun control laws in America. If we continue to ignore the most simple facts like these and demand more “gun control” you help cause more dead children. Maybe take a step back, find a city or two that has less gun and other violence, and see what they’re doing. I can guarantee that they will have less restrictive gun laws than those in Chicago.

  • Responsible Person

    The reason for the “gun violence” is the proliferation of violent criminals who decide to illegally buy a gun, illegally carry a gun and illegally use a gun to commit felony assault and/or murder.

    Your proposed solution, “modest” gun control laws including background checks and banning “battlefield” weapons, already exists. The criminals are violating those laws. I challenge you to cite a specific case where your so-called solution would have had any effect. Show us the case where no existing gun laws were violated. If you can it will be the exception, not the norm.

    What you really want is to eliminate guns altogether, then we won’t have “gun violence”. Next we can tackle “knife violence”, “club violence”, “iron skillet violence”, “bare hands violence”, etc. Which brings me to the point: You have no idea how to stop people from becoming criminals who are ready and willing to commit horrible acts of violence!

    Do you honestly believe that you can write laws so effective that criminals can’t get guns, at which point they’ll give up the life of crime and become model citizens?

    People don’t just decide that killing is fun and they want to make a career of it. They do so because they are forced into a situation where that seems to be the best of their limited options. If only there were better options for them to choose from…

  • Another Experience and Perspective

    Rick, compare Chicago, Washington DC and New York City have in common in relationship to gun violence. They all have the toughest laws in the country making guns illegal for citizens. These laws have been the toughest in the land for at least 20+ years. Look at results. Criminal gangs run (armed) with impunity.

    Compare gun violence of Chicago or DC to say, Dallas, TX where gun ownership is simple, legal and even encouraged to a large extent as an expectation of community. Its simply impossible for the criminals to have the same behavior as they do in Chicago or DC.

    My outrage is equal. I’m outraged about the violence of unbridled criminals who have zero fear of confrontation or personal jeopardy because lawful citizens are unarmed and unable to resist or protect themselves.

    Different Experience and POINT OF VIEW: I live in an older neighborhood of many ethnic and racial backgrounds including a share of illegals who even though undocumented, reasonably conform and participate in the community. My household is mixed ethnic, color and language. The neighborhood is over 50% low income and the local schools give away breakfast and lunch. Our schools struggle in comparative testing mainly due to averaging in the illegal population’s impact on standardized testing. We are inside the inner traffic loop of the city, so guess we live in the hood.

    However, In my state (not TX) guns are legal, easy and expected. It is illegal for felons to own or carry. I would guess in speaking with neighbors, more than 3 in 4 households are armed, some heavily. I do not have a key to my home, nor lock my doors even when I go on vacation. I’m armed, my neighbors know it and i know and appreciate many of them are likewise.

    I’m admit to being a radical.

    From what I am told by reading articles like yours and TV and political media, I must be a right wing radical, though I personally hate Wall street crooks as much as I hate Chicago street thugs.

    Worse, in my radical agenda, I want to live in peace, enjoy my community, raise my kids, help my neighbors when needed and otherwise generally be left alone. Occasionally, I write a response piece like this in hopes of encouraging others to become radicals. We need more radicals who refuse to be anything less than independent in their thinking and actions.

  • Herb

    How many of those with guns were NOT supposed to have them under existing laws? Most of them I’m sure. How many were purchased legally through a licensed firearms dealer by the shooters? Not very many of them I’m sure. How many of the victims and shooters have ties to gangs? Quite a few I’m sure. What is needed is GANG control, you get rid of all the violent gang activity and your gun violence will drop way down. I guess it’s easier to blame guns than it is ot admit you have a youth/young adult issue in town.

  • K.

    This is a general appeal to the Nonprofit Quarterly about this and other articles you publish. Please try to remain neutral on the moral and hot button topics of the day and concentrate on nonprofit concerns. As a nonprofit leader who leans slightly right of center, I may be in the minority, but I know I’m not alone. You risk disenfranchising a contingency of passionate, dedicated people. When you publish opinion pieces, how about offering commentary from both sides?

  • Terry Fernsler

    Wow, the gun nuts noticed this article quickly, using neoliberal arguments of individual responsibility to oppose any limits on guns. This detracts from the message I think Rick is sending–that nonprofits of all types (especially the many involved with social justice issues) should be involved in the issue of the proliferation of guns in this nation. If people are able to access guns easily (and illegally), that is certainly an indication that there are too many guns to be had.

    Nonprofit organizations are social constructs intended to remedy social problems–collectively. We are not designed to defend personal liberties except in cases where personal liberties of two or more parties conflict. The epidemic of gun violence–from any party–is a social justice, health, and pursuit of happiness issue. It is also an issue of conflict of personal liberties. What better place to seek resolution than through the collective dialogue that nonprofits are designed to provide?

    Third Sector Radio USA

  • Fred Gardner

    A weekend massacre of black people by black people . Where’s Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. No one seems to care unless there’s a white guy involved.

  • brtndr98

    Wow, I live in the Dallas, TX/FT Worth area, where there was a total of just 1 gun murder over the 4th of July weekend (probably gang related) and Dallas/FT Worth is just one large metroplex in the state of Texas where as long as you don’t have any felony convictions, you can go down to your local gun store, or sporting goods store just a few miles from where you live, and purchase a rifle, or a pistol, without having to apply for a license or permit. We even have a legal open carry policy throughout the State of Texas now. Yet, there was only 1 gun death in the Dallas/Ft Worth area this July 4th weekend, and there were 82 people shot and 14 killed in Chicago where it’s nearly impossible to obtain a permit to legally own a firearm. Go figure that one out anti-gun nuts.

    Also, I noticed the author of this article mentions that, “elsewhere in the U.S. In Indianapolis, a police officer was killed amidst shootings over the holiday. Multiple shootings left at least four people dead in San Francisco. A number of shootings in Long Beach left at least one person dead. Two people were killed in Baltimore over the holiday.”. In order to bolster his argument that stricter gun control laws would eventually put an end to gun violence in America. However, the author failed to mention that all those cities he cited as an example for the need for more gun control in America, all have something in common with each other and Chicago…. Except for Indianapolis, all those cities already have some of the strictest anti-gun laws on the books where (unless you have a lot of money) it is nearly impossible to legally own a fire arm.

    So, for all you anti-gun NUTS, who actually believe you would be safer if you lived in a city, state or country where guns are almost impossible for law abiding citizens to legally have. Just check the statistics for yourself and you’ll see that where ever guns are heavily restricted, like Chicago, New York, California, Baltimore and Mexico, violent crime per capita is much higher than in cities, states and countries that allow law abiding private citizens to easily own firearms. Check it out for yourself, it’s a fact.