EDITORIAL: Stop gun violence, honor Demario

SHARE EDITORIAL: Stop gun violence, honor Demario
SHARE EDITORIAL: Stop gun violence, honor Demario

The principal of an Englewood high school spoke for all of us this week when she cried out after one of her honor roll students, Demario Bailey, was shot and killed Saturday afternoon by a group of teens with a gun under a viaduct.

“I know I speak for every educator who continuously deals with this type of tragedy in saying we are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Johnson College Prep Principal Garland Thomas-McDavid said in a statement. “The apologies are not enough.”

Thomas-McDavid was putting a voice to the anger and frustration as we watch Congress and other elected officials ignore the victims of daily shootings in Chicago and across the United States.

Victims like Demario, a 15-year-old sophomore killed after four robbers ambushed the boy and his twin brother on West 63rd Street and demanded his coat.

It’s not that no one is trying. On Tuesday, a Chicago mayoral commission recommended 28 ways to prevent youth violence. Among its priorities: more jobs and year-round job training; healing support for victims and their families; restorative communities in schools; diverting low-level offenders from the justice system, and safe places for youth activities.

These are all important programs, each of which can help. But anti-violence programs go only so far when illegal guns remain easy to get. With no gun under the 63rd Street viaduct, Demario would be alive and his four alleged assailants would not be in jail accused of murder.

Demario and his brother, Demacio, were keeping busy, heading to Demacio’s basketball practice, when Demario was shot. That’s just the kind of activity championed by the mayoral commission. But the teens who allegedly confronted the twins weren’t occupied — and they were armed.

Nothing will change until we slow the flow of illegal guns in Chicago.

Look what’s happened around the city since Demario was slain. On Sunday night, a 33-year-old man was shot and wounded in Gresham. On Monday, at least two men were killed and six other people, including three teenage boys in the Washington Park neighborhood, were wounded in shootings. And those were just some of the shootings.

On the national level, there’s a smattering of hopeful signs.

On Monday, Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed as U.S. surgeon general, despite opposition from some in Congress over his support for gun control and his belief that gun violence is a public health issue.

Also on Monday, the families of nine people killed in the Newtown school massacre — in which 20 children and six educators died — announced a lawsuit against the maker and sellers of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the shooting, saying the gun should not have been sold for civilian use because of its overwhelming firepower.

But the National Rifle Association and other gun groups continue to make it easier to obtain and carry firearms. On Tuesday, Michigan lawmakers approved NRA-backed legislation easing licensing restrictions for air guns. In September, Missouri eased restrictions on the concealed and open carrying of guns. In April, Georgia gave the green light for guns inside bars, restaurants, churches and some government buildings that don’t have their own restrictions.

Congress is not going to stanch the tsunami of illegal and dangerous guns. That’s why we have called on Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner to lead Illinois in enacting sensible legislation to stop the onslaught of illegal guns, such as state licensing of gun dealers and stronger penalties for people who fail to report lost or stolen guns.

Again and again, we’ve heard outcries after tragic shooting deaths of young Chicagoans. But as Principal Thomas-McDavid said, ‘‘After all the fanfare is over, someone still has to put their baby in the ground.”

The apologies are not enough. We need action.

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