Once again, deadly shootings have us asking, ‘What can be done to stop the violence?’
Melissa Ortega, Gloria and Erskine Binder and Bobbye Johnson: Innocent lives lost are a reminder that ending gun violence starts with keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
An 8-year-old girl.
A senior citizen and her adult son.
All four Chicagoans were shot to death in less than a two-week time period, while going about their lives in the city.
Three of these victims were with other family members when they were gunned down. That grim detail is a stark reminder, as National Gun Violence Survivors Week continues through Feb. 7, that every person felled by gun violence — including Melissa Ortega, Gloria and Erskine Binder and Bobbye Johnson — leaves behind severely traumatized and grieving loved ones.
Fatal shootings are an epidemic in our city, which racked up more than 800 homicides in 2021, the most in more than two decades. Many Chicagoans have likely grown numb to the endless headlines, or have trained themselves to compartmentalize to cope. But the circumstances surrounding these recent murders, of innocent lives needlessly snuffed out in quick succession, have us asking in desperation once again:
What can be done to stop the shootings?
Every Chicagoan has some role to play, because these crimes are also a sobering reminder — if one was needed — that we are all vulnerable to gun violence, even during the coldest months of the year and in the midst of a deadly pandemic. No matter the zip code, anyone in our city can be sprayed with bullets while involved in the most mundane activity, whether it be waiting for the bus or going for a jog.
Melissa Ortega was walking with her mother to a Little Village bank on Jan. 22 when the alleged gunman, a 16-year boy, emerged from a nearby alley and started shooting, killing Melissa and wounding a gang member who was the intended target.
Gloria Binder, 67, was in her car running errands with her family on the morning of Feb 1 when someone opened fire, killing her and seriously injuring her husband, police said. Seconds earlier, the gunman shot and killed the couple’s 42-year-old son as he walked into a South Side grocery store.
Later that afternoon, Bobbye Johnson, 55, was standing near the Chicago police headquarters when she was caught in a gun battle between a security guard and a rival, authorities said.
A complex problem
Curbing gun violence is a massive task, but the solution absolutely must start with making it much harder for people who shouldn’t have guns to get their hands on a weapon.
When Emilio Corripio allegedly shot Melissa, he was three months into an intensive juvenile probation program for a pair of carjackings and possession of a stolen vehicle charge. He had a gun while committing those crimes, authorities said.
It’s understandable to question why Corripio wasn’t locked up at the time, since he had been on the streets stealing cars while waving a gun around. But the teen was apparently following the required conditions of his release since his first arrest at 15. And locking up juveniles, research has shown, is not a good strategy for rehabilitation and crime prevention. One 2015 study showed that minors who were incarcerated in Chicago were less likely to finish high school and more likely to end up in prison as adults.
The indisputable fact: Melissa was the victim of gun violence, which is driven by too-easy access to deadly weapons.
The same can be said of the murders of Gloria and Erskine Binder, who were killed just two weeks after another shooting on the same block, between East Chatham and Grand Crossing, left two people wounded. No one has been charged in the murders or the shooting, but it’s a good bet that the shooters had guns they were not legally entitled to carry.
Bobbye Johnson was killed by a bullet fired by Victor Brown, a security guard, who was firing at another man, police said. Brown has a record of felony convictions for domestic battery and armed robbery, and is now charged with Johnson’s murder.
The man Brown was arguing with, just two blocks from the CPD headquarters, fired at Brown — and Brown fired back at the man with his own weapon, then took a gun from another security guard and kept shooting, police said.
Brown was working as a liquor store security guard, but we’re still wondering why a man with a felony record was able to obtain a gun.
Again and again, deadly weapons keep ending up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Again and again, innocent people are gunned down.
Melissa’s mother, who just moved to Chicago from Mexico in August, learned in the most heart-breaking way imaginable how pervasive gun violence is in our city. She asked why we haven’t been able end the scourge.
Those of us who’ve been here longer keep wondering that too.
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