Her name never made national news. There were no headlines screaming for gun control. There were no teary eyes in the White House. And no one dared utter the obligatory, ‘it’s not supposed to happen here,’ as they so often do when the young and innocent are so tragically taken.
Heaven Sutton was seven years old when she was killed last summer, struck by a stray bullet as she sold candy and snow cones in her front yard on the eve of Chicago’s hottest day of the year.
Her grief stricken mother pleaded for peace. The mayor expressed his outrage. And Chicago—where gun violence is as routine as the L train into the South Side—buried yet another of its young. Heaven joined the more than 270 school aged children to be killed in Chicago in just three years.
Few outsiders will know the names on that list.
But last Friday, on the heels of the horrific killing of 27 people in Newtown, Conn., including 20 first graders, a renewed national debate over America’s access to guns has been sparked. With it a closer look at gun control and gun violence in cities like Chicago, where young people—some of them as young as those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary—have been dying for years in steady, violent trickles with little more than local notice.
Some have died over turf. Some over the spoils of the city’s lucrative drug trade. Still others, particularly the youngest among them, are far too frequently caught in the abyss between a bullet and the lack of effective gun legislation to keep illegal weapons off the streets.
“These mass shootings get the news but they are just the tip of the iceberg, a tiny percent of the gun violence we see in America,” said David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health. “The big issue is always guns. And if we can figure out a way to make it more difficult for inner city gangs to have very easy access to guns, we’ll be making a tremendous difference.”
Others blame a criminal justice system that fails to prosecute people caught with illegal weapons to the fullest extent of the law. Still others on police cutbacks.
Regardless of the roots, the cost of gun violence is astonishingly high in Chicago, calculated in both deaths and bullet- battered communities, but also dollars.
Roseanna Ander, executive director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, said the resulting hospital stays, court cases and law enforcement costs related to gun violence, as well as indirect costs associated with residents and businesses leaving the city because of fear of crime and violence are extraordinary.
Anders estimates the cost to be about $2.5 billion annually, or $2,500 per household.
“If you removed the homicides that involve guns, the homicide rates would look like the U.K., London, and Western Europe,” Anders said. “It’s the guns that drive the homicide problems in Chicago.”
The city’s summer death toll even drew comparisons to war zones: 144 American soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan by June of this year; 228 Chicagoans had been killed during that same time period. Many of the dead were school age or teenagers.
The morning after Friday’s killings in Newtown, a headline in the Chicago Tribune read, “10 shot, including 4 teens, Friday afternoon and night.”
The sweeping tallies of violence have become a staple in local newspapers. The names of the victims have become almost secondary to the sheer volume of the violent episodes engulfing them.
“I think a lot of times in communities where this kind of violence takes place often, a lot of us become desensitized. But I think what this incident at Sandy Hook did is show that it can happen in places that you don’t expect,” said Norman Kerr, a youth advocate and outreach director for UCAN in Chicago. “And I think that’s the way we should look at these things when they happen in Newtown or any other city. These things should always happen where you don’t expect it.”
The author of the MSNBC article, Trymaine Lee, never discusses the racial reality of these murders, shootings, or violence in Chicago. As you’ve no doubt learned from reading SBPDL, “guns don’t kill people, dangerous minorities do.
” If you remove black people – be they law-abiding or a gangbanger -from Chicago’s population, the cost of gun violence would be a fraction of the purported $2.5 billion.
That’s the wonderful reality of the cost of “Manifest Destruction” to the city of Chicago, or what is still commonly known in polite parlance as the “Great Migration” of blacks from the southern states.