Follow @MaryMitchellCSTIs it time to stop classifying shootings as “gang-related?”
Frankly, I hadn’t given the issue much thought until I read Gary Younge’s insightful book, “Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives.”
Younge, who traveled the country chronicling the lives of young people killed by guns in America on a single day in 2013, argues the term “gang-related” is “most often used not to describe, but to dismiss” these deaths.
He’s absolutely right.
We’ve become obsessed with finding something other than the proliferation of guns on our streets to blame for these untimely deaths.
Gangs have always been in America. What there hasn’t always been is the ease with which young people can get their hands on guns.
Follow @MaryMitchellCSTLast weekend, as the Chicago Cubs gave the city something to cheer about, 17 people — four of them between 14 and 17 — were killed by gunfire.
It is not surprising that some people blamed the spike in fatal shootings on Police Supt. Eddie Johnson’s decision to saturate the areas around Wrigley Field with a thick police presence.
Johnson’s policing strategy made sense. Obviously a celebration fueled by “fandemonium” and liquor could easily get out of control.
But because the death toll rose in neighborhoods elsewhere, people could point to Johnson’s policing strategy — rather than to guns — as the culprit.
“We had adequate resources there. We had canceled days off, as well as 12-hour shifts the entire weekend,” he told the press on Monday.
The same can be said about the term “gang-related.”
Calling a fatal shooting “gang-related” suggests that the victim somehow deserved to be gunned down and nothing could be done.
For instance, 17-year-old fraternal twins Edwin and Edward Bryant were killed last weekend. They were fatally shot in a drive-by shooting early Sunday morning in Old Town.
The teens were shot multiple times and pronounced dead one hour apart. On Wednesday, the teens’ mother was still unable to speak publicly about this tragedy.
Both teens were juniors at Marshall High School, where Edward Bryant played for Marshall’s team and also on the Chicago Demons traveling team, a youth basketball program in Old Town.
The first questions people ask when teens are killed under these circumstances is why were they on the street at 3:15 a.m. — and if the shooting was gang-related?
Obviously, there’s no good reason for 17-year-olds to be out at that time of the morning. But a lot of us made similarly reckless choices in our youth and weren’t gunned down.
Additionally, there are fewer safe spaces left in the city.
You could be sitting in a car, walking down the street, lounging on a porch, riding public transportation or driving on an expressway and someone could start firing a gun.
Unfortunately, gun offenders have a lot of confidence that they aren’t going to get caught, and for a good reason: Less than a third of the shootings are solved.
The day before the twins were gunned down, 14-year-old DeMarco Webster Jr. was in the 500 block of North Central helping his father load a van at 1:45 a.m. when someone drove by and fatally shot the teen.
Webster lived next door to the Bryant twins. Police don’t believe Webster was involved in a gang. Yet the 14-year-old is dead.
Police said the twins weren’t documented gang members, although individuals who were with them were affiliated with a gang. Yet these 17-year-old boys are also dead.
Young people are dying on our streets because too many legislators will not take a stand against the powerful gun lobby.
Gang activity is undesirable, but it is not killing young people.
The easy access to lethal weapons is.