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EDITORIAL: Our city must find the will to stop the shootings and bloodshed

Police investigate a shooting Sunday morning that happened near a laundromat at 3909 S. Archer Ave. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The worst stretch of shootings started just after midnight on Sunday, when three teens and a 25-year-old man were wounded at a block party on South Avers Avenue in North Lawndale.

About 40 minutes later, on the other side of town, eight people were wounded when several men shot into a crowd on West 76th Street in Gresham. The crowd had gathered after a funeral repast. Four teenage girls were among the victims.

At 2:35 a.m., violence struck again in North Lawndale. Two men fired on a group gathered on South Millard Avenue, blocks away from the earlier shooting on Avers. An 11-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy were among those wounded. A 17-year-old girl, Jahnae Patterson, was killed.


Early Sunday morning was the bloody culmination of a horrific weekend in Chicago, leaving plenty of Chicagoans stunned, angry and fed up. Gunfire rang out in Austin and Humboldt Park, Little Village and Grand Boulevard and elsewhere, leaving 12 people dead, 59 others wounded and who-knows-how-many relatives and friends grieving.

Somehow, some way, Chicago must find the political — and moral — will to stop the bloodshed taking place on too many of our streets. We can’t give a green light to shooting galleries in some neighborhoods as long as there is peace everywhere else. A summer block party shouldn’t end in a hail of bullets, whether in North Lawndale or North Center.

“All of us know that this is not Chicago, what we saw,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday at a press conference with Police Supt. Eddie Johnson. Unfortunately, for a lot of Chicagoans on the South and West sides this past weekend, it was — and the risk is always there.

Ending our gun violence epidemic isn’t just a job for City Hall, City Council, or the Chicago Police Department. And while more jobs, better schools, adequate mental health care and other services for impoverished communities will help stem the epidemic, they aren’t magic bullets.

Prevention must go hand-in-hand with personal responsibility. Shooters must put down the guns. Witnesses must speak up to make sure shooters pay the consequences if they don’t. And why, we have to ask, are so many children out on unsafe streets at 2 a.m.?

“I hear people holding us [police] accountable all the time,” Johnson said. “I never hear people say these individuals out there on the streets need to stop pulling the trigger. They get a pass from everybody, and they shouldn’t.”

Some of this weekend’s shootings involved multiple victims, and those incidents raise a sticky question: What makes a mass shooting?

If four, five or eight people were shot in a single incident in upscale Lincoln Park, it’s hard to imagine that most of the media wouldn’t jump to label it a mass shooting and sound the alarm about guns, stiffer prison sentences and on and on.

There’s plenty of disagreement on this point. The FBI defines a mass shooting as a single incident in which four or more people, not including the shooter, are killed, and excludes gang-related or domestic shootings.

A gang-banger who shoots up a crowd of innocent people while targeting a rival isn’t a mass shooter? A wife who shoots her husband and three kids while they’re watching TV in the living room doesn’t qualify? That doesn’t make much sense to us.

Other organizations, such as the Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection group, label an incident a mass shooting when four or more people are either shot or killed.

Words matter, of course. A mass shooting is hard to ignore. A gang shooting is easily shrugged aside by some people, though, especially when it involves young black gang members.

We don’t want to get wrapped up in semantics. Call the horror of last weekend what you will.

As long as we’re all paying attention.

When eight people are shot in Gresham, the alarm should sound just as loud as if it happened on the Gold Coast.

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