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Editorial: Stop the shootings in Chicago

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The headlines about Chicago shootings keep coming: One killed, 4 wounded. One dead, 5 wounded. Three dead, 24 wounded. Behind every number, a tragedy.

On Tuesday, the headlines reported five people were killed and 11 were hurt in Chicago shootings the day before. A bloody day, even by Chicago standards. Later on Tuesday, police said a 76-year-old man was found dead of multiple gunshots in his home on the Far South Side.

We can’t simply shrug off those numbers as an inescapable fact of life. Even at a time of turmoil, the city needs to take action.

EDITORIAL


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The number of shootings is going up in Chicago. Nearly 250 people have been shot in Chicago in 2016. More people were shot in the first three weeks of January than in in any three-week period over the last four years, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis. And that’s in the dead of winter, when cold weather tends to keep people indoors.

What’s going to happen when it gets warm?

City officials are grappling with an enormous challenge: reforming a Police Department whose officers have been involved in too many fatal shootings. The hiring of former Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., police chief Charles Ramsey to advise the Police Department on civil rights reforms will help. Mayor Rahm Emanuel also needs to hire a top-notch superintendent, find ways to crack down on cops who are trouble, and end a police culture of silence instead of accountability. The important of achieving that task can’t be underestimated.

But in the meantime, the streets must be made safer. Ordinary citizens need to feel secure when doing something as simple as running an errand.

The sound of gunshots is too common in too many neighborhoods. People feel trapped in their hopes, afraid of being caught in crossfire. And guns remain too readily available. On Monday evening, jury selection was completed in the trial of a man charged with giving a gun to his 14-year-old niece, who shot 14-year-old Endia Martin in the Back of the Yards in 2014. Would that death have happened without that gun? Murder and shootings are besieging the city, and people want it to stop.

In the protests over Laquan McDonald, much focus has been on police and prosecutors. But to stop crime before it happens, the city must come together to provide better schools, a broader network of effective after-school programs, more investment in struggling neighborhoods and more jobs that provide a decent living.

The city must also push to strengthen state laws. After a 25-year-old man was shot to death inside a Hyatt Regency hotel at McCormick Place early Saturday, Acting Police Superintendent John Escalante said the shootings will go on as long as guns flow easily into Chicago. To cut down on that flow, the state needs to license all gun dealers, to make it easier to crack down on shops that sell large numbers of firearms that turn up at crime scenes. The state also should allow families of people going through personal crises to petition courts to have guns temporarily remove firearms from their homes. Better laws would help not just Chicago but also the entire state: Illinois is one of 21 states that have more gun deaths than auto fatalities, according to a study released Jan. 11 by the national Violence Policy Center.

Shootings drive away jobs, ruin neighborhoods and leave an ache that never ends in the hearts of victims’ families. The city needs to use every resource it has to prevent them.

Follow the Editorial Board on Twitter: Follow @csteditorials

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